Robbie Henshaw happy to combine with Keith Earls in centre

It can’t have been an easy few weeks for Robbie Henshaw.

Twenty-two years of age, just established as one half of Ireland’s newest centre combination, then a niggly little hamstring injury went and sidelined him for the opening World Cup run-outs against Canada and Romania when the side threw the ball around like confetti at a wedding.

This was different.

“I just didn’t get that much ball in hand and we kicked a little bit more ball in the second-half,” he admitted after a testing evening against Italy.

The Irish Examiner’s Rugby Correspondent Simon Lewis gives his views on Ireland after their RWC clash with Italy at the Olympic Stadium. Video by Dan Linehan

“There was a lot of turnover ball. We didn’t build the phases and their defence was pretty good, in fairness to them. They put up a stiff challenge and the breakdown was a bit of an issue.”

It had been four weeks since Henshaw’s last competitive run so this was something of a “wake-up call” in that regard.

The lungs were bursting long before the sides broke for the interval, but by then he had contributed to what would be the game’s only try.

He was a key link in the chain for that, slipping a delightful offload to Keith Earls, his partner in midfield for the day, to bomb through the cover from a well-drilled diagonal run.

It was the last of the fireworks from them, though Henshaw was happy enough with how they gelled.

“Yes, I was happy with the partnership with Keith. I thought he was good on his feet.

“He showed a lovely line inside in support for the offload so he was really sharp and he had a good chat in my ear as well. There were no issues and he is a great fella to have in the centre.”

But could they have done more, even in such a strangling environment as that put together by the Italians? Would a Brian O’Driscoll or Gordon D’Arcy, or even a Jared Payne, have demanded more ball and thus more weight be placed on their shoulders?

“We can demand ball, but we have to hold on to it first before we can get it and I thought we were loose enough with the ball.

“We haven’t been as loose with it in the last couple of weeks.

“We just need to hold onto it and get more go-forward ball. That gives us more space and time. Ultimately, that’s how we will start running in tries like we did the last couple of weeks. The ball wasn’t that quick in this game.

“They were presenting a tough challenge at the breakdown and slowed the ruck for us.”

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