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Henshaw comes out of O'Driscoll's shadow to show he is ready to play at centre


Robbie Henshaw after taking a knock against the USA. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Robbie Henshaw after taking a knock against the USA. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE


Robbie Henshaw after taking a knock against the USA. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Robbie Henshaw found the baptism of fire at inside centre physically "insane" against South Africa.

It was only recently that Brian O'Driscoll anointed Henshaw as the best candidate for the thirteen jersey because he likes to hurt people.

When you strip away all the tactics, the skills, the preparation, this brutal sport is based on physical domination and they don't come any more confrontational than The Springboks.

"I don't go out to hurt people but I like a big hit, I won't lie. I like the physical aspect of it," he said.

"That's really what I cherish, putting in a big hit. I've been like that since I was a schoolboy. I think Brian saw that a couple of times in me so he just said that."

Coach Joe Schmidt brought him in to learn in the shadow of O'Driscoll last year. Now the great man has gone for Henshaw to make the step from boy to man.

"Yeah I've had to grow up and start doing things myself, stepping up and taking it into my own hands.

"Brian kind of held my hand last year and brought me up with him. He gave me some really good tips and I've just learned from all the stuff he has given me in camp. He really helped me out."

Schmidt had a plan up his sleeve - doesn't he always? - to move Henshaw into twelve where his physicality might be put to more direct use on the shoulder of Jonathan Sexton.

"I've played a couple of games there before with Connacht when there were a few injuries. I had to move in one. I was comfortable there," he said.

"It's obviously an option for the future as well. I'm leaving all the options open."

And why wouldn't he? He has truly arrived as an international force. So too have Ireland.

They took a southern hemisphere scalp forth first time in three years. That's right. You have to go back to Australia at the 2011 World Cup.

Springbok tight-head Jannie du Plessis held an interesting perspective on how Ireland lost the battle of the statistics and, yet, won the war.

"It is probably a little like chess in that if you have the most pieces on the board and your queen is creating havoc," he said.


"You think you are in the box seat. But, if your king falls, you lose the game".

The best laid plans can come unstuck. The set-piece is the foundation of rugby. South Africa were not able to put enough around it to take advantage of their dominance.

"A very wise man once said that a good scrum cannot win you a game but a bad scrum can lose you a game. Unfortunately that is how set piece works.

"In Super Rugby, sometimes we have dominated set piece and then you have a few ninjas that score four tries. That's part of the game."

Ireland's ninjas came in the form of try-scorers Rhys Ruddock and Tommy Bowe and the brilliant awareness of half-backs Sexton and Conor Murray.

Heyneke Meyer's men were also outsmarted at the maul where Ireland did not engage them and sent the ever willing Jack McGrath around the side to sack the ball in a sneak attack.

They did not seem to appreciate the laws of the game surrounding the maul and needed the half-time respite to figure out how to counter Ireland and referee Romain Poite.

"You should ask Mr Poite that. My head is in the oven and I didn't really see. I did see that we couldn't get our drive going.

"We couldn't use that part of our game to achieve pressure and that is a big part of our game."