Fresh Henshaw ready to hit the ground running

Fresh Henshaw ready to hit the ground running

There’s many means of changing the mood music.

Performances on the pitch are the most obvious and effective but doing that is easier said than done. Hitting the right notes on the training ground?

Vital, clearly, but a myriad of other factors feed into that.

It may be an impromptu day off. A change of scenery. Or just a different voice.

Ireland have certainly mixed it up when it comes to talking heads in the run-up to the World Cup with Kellie Harrington, Ruby Walsh and Henry Shefflin all having passed through the team’s HQ to share their thoughts and bring a new perspective.

Harrington sat down with different pods of players and discussed the pressure that comes with competing for world boxing titles. Shefflin kept it simple in recalling the pride he and his fellow Kilkenny men had in wearing that famous jersey and winning All-Irelands.

Christy Moore, as is his wont, communicated in a very different key.

The Kildare singer and songwriter has performed for the Irish rugby team on multiple occasions, not least in the week leading up to the game against England in Twickenham last year when Ireland secured a rare Grand Slam.

Back in Carton House on Wednesday night, he had Cian Healy swooning over his version of the Johnny Cash number ‘Hurt’.

Tadhg Furlong took everyone by surprise with the quality of his voice although Henshaw couldn’t play along with the accordion this time as it was a surprise gig.

“It was good craic,” said the Westmeath man, who once appeared on TV as part of a trad session.

He was slagging off a few of the lads, but it was good craic, even the songs he was singing. Lads who never sing were singing along with him. That eases the pressure valve a little, helps us to switch off.

Last Saturday’s win against Wales in Cardiff was a balm to the wounds suffered in their shellacking at England’s hands in the previous warm-up, but it wasn’t nearly enough to gloss over a number of the questions raised by a stuttering set of performances across 2019.

Tomorrow’s ‘return’ clash with the Welsh will bring together two much-changed and much stronger sides in what is a final run-out for both countries before they pitch up for the tournament openers.

Henshaw is one of three Irish players — Jonathan Sexton and Keith Earls being the others — who will be starting a game for the first time this season, but he has shown before that he is perfectly able to slot back in for club and country and hit the ground running. Something similar will be expected here.

“I’m just happy being back. It doesn’t concern me,” he said of the inactivity. “I’ve come back after a few lay-offs and was able to settle in when needed. I’m pretty used to returning from injury, so thankfully this isn’t a return from injury.

“A lot of work is done behind with the medical staff that gets you to that level. The speed of the game when you get to finals rugby is a step up again, but the work they put in definitely stands to you.”

The returns to the team of Conor Murray and Cian Healy, both after respective minor injuries in the loss to England, only add to the expectation that this Irish performance should be above anything we have seen in the first three games, regardless of the result.

It’s a game which will be deemed as a footnote, if that, when the story of this Ireland team’s World Cup journey is written later this year and yet Henshaw is well aware of the need to cast off from the Aviva with some wind in their sails before they make for Japan next Wednesday.

“Yeah, well, it’s vital for us that we get a good bit of confidence out of this game and put in a good performance.

The performance is key, that we build momentum and that we’re getting on the plane with a good, positive mindset and with that confidence going into the competition. So it’s vital for us that we lay down a marker.

Fresh Henshaw ready to hit the ground runnin


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