Henderson ready to be Ireland’s ‘force of nature’
For all the talk in the build-up to this World Cup of Johnny Sexton being Ireland’s key player, and the need for Joe Schmidt’s back line to run in a hatful of points in their opening Pool D clash against Canada this afternoon, the eve of the game focused on second rows.
The selection of Iain Henderson has created a real buzz in the Ireland camp, with hopes that the Ulster player can forge a dynamic partnership with captain Paul O’Connell at this World Cup after beating Devin Toner – O’Connell’s regular second-row partner – to selection for the first game.
Henderson, still only 23, has long been touted as the next big thing in Irish rugby, albeit some, including former Ulster and Ireland back-row forward Stephen Ferris, believe he is better suited to blindside flanker than lock.
Ireland’s head coach described him as a “force of nature” on Thurs- day, while thir defence coach, Les Kiss, yesterday urged the Ulsterman to grab his opportunity with both hands.
“The potential is there and if he’s got his mind on and his head right, he can be a damaging player,” Kiss said.
The other big talking point yesterday revolved around whether there would be any niggle between O’Connell and Canada’s enforcer and captain, Jamie Cudmore.
O’Connell famously got into a scrap with the 37-year-old Clermont lock back in 2008, which resulted in Cudmore being sent off and O’Connell given time in the sin bin.
Cudmore said he did not expect any repeat of that, adding that he had already made up with O’Connell, presenting the Ireland captain with a bottle from his ‘Sin-Bin’ wine range when Munster faced Clermont in France last season. “I gave Paul a bottle of white, that we call the ‘Yellow Card’, and myself a bottle of red, poking fun at 2008,” Cudmore said.