WATCH: Paul O’Connell excited to play with ‘terrific athlete’ Iain Henderson

WATCH: Paul O’Connell excited to play with ‘terrific athlete’ Iain Henderson

By Grainne McGuinness and Shaun Cronin

Paul O’Connell is looking forward to locking down alongside Iain Henderson when Ireland start their World Cup campaign against Canada on Saturday.

In what was one of the most debated personnel decisions this week, Henderson was chosen ahead of Devin Toner to start alongside captain O’Connell in the second row.

Henderson is making his World Cup debut in the match; O’Connell laughed when asked had he given the Ulster player any advice.

“Not really,” he answered. “He’s a very laid-back guy, you know.

“He’s a little bit like Dev (Toner), if they were any more laid-back they’d be lying down.”

But despite his relaxed nature, O’Connell said Henderson was a force to be reckoned with on the field, something he saw when playing against him.

“He’s a terrific athlete, you just can’t coach the things that he has in terms of his power, his speed,” O’Connell said. “He reads the game really well.

“When we (Munster) were struggling in that first half of that Ulster game toward the end of the season, Keith Earls did a kick ahead and to me it looked like a try. But Iain Henderson read it incredibly and then had the pace to match Earlsy over the line as well.”

Henderson also benefits from a close relationship with Ulster teammate Rory Best.

“He has a great relationship with Besty, he’s kind of Besty’s servant around the place,” O’Connell joked. “He does all the line-out throwing.

“When Besty needs someone to throw a line-out ball, Hendy is always there for him. They’ve a great relationship.

“He doesn’t take any looking after, he’s a very confident guy. When it comes to the matches you can really see what he’s made of, it’s exciting to play with him.”

Shaun Cronin, Head Sports Reporter chatting with PA's Rugby Correspondent after the Irish team press conference in Cardiff. Video by Dan Linehan

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