Friday 15 December 2017

Robbie Henshaw: Wales will be our biggest challenge yet

Robbie Henshaw scores a try against ENgland
Robbie Henshaw scores a try against ENgland

Robbie Henshaw believes Ireland's fledgling centre partnership faces its toughest Six Nations test yet in Wales on Saturday against Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

Connacht battering ram Henshaw (left) has rubbished the suggestions that Warren Gatland's Wales are past their peak that surfaced after the 21-16 home defeat to England.

Ireland's 21-year-old midfield sensation will pair up with Jared Payne in the centre for just the fifth time in Test action at the Millennium Stadium.

Roberts and Davies will combine from the start for the 38th time on Saturday, at the heart of an unchanged line-up following victory over France in Paris.

"I think it could definitely be the toughest test for me and Jared," said Henshaw of the challenge against Roberts and Davies.

"Wales are very direct but also they run decoy lines with Roberts coming up, only to throw it out back and go wide.

"It's going to test us big-time, so we've got to be prepared and stay connected in defence, and just keep our communication up all day."

Racing Metro centre Roberts will win his 68th Test cap for Wales this weekend while Clermont's Davies will make it 47 in Cardiff's pivotal Six Nations clash.

Ireland can remain on course for a second Grand Slam in seven years with victory on Saturday, with a trip to Scotland still ahead.

Ruthless boss Joe Schmidt this week omitted veteran centre Gordon D'Arcy from his 36-man training squad for the remaining two Six Nations contests.

D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll set a world record 55-Test centre partnership in their wide-ranging careers.

Henshaw has long been touted as the now-retired O'Driscoll's natural successor at outside centre, but has instead found himself replacing D'Arcy at 12.

The Athlone native is gearing up for just his ninth cap, with New Zealand-born Payne in line for his fifth Test bow.

So from boasting the world's most experienced centre pairing en route to last year's Six Nations title, Ireland will concede 101 caps to their Welsh midfield rivals.

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