England attack coach Scott Wisemantel admitted he was surprised at Joe Schmidt’s decision to name Robbie Henshaw at fullback for tomorrow’s eagerly anticipated clash between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium.
Wisemantel and George Kruis addressed the media today at a city centre Dublin hotel and the duo were keen not to give too much away as they prepare to take on the second-ranked side in the world.
Inevitably, they were asked on the subject of Henshaw and Wisemantel did reveal that he and the rest of the coaching staff have already dug out footage of the 25-year-old from the last time he played there – for his former club Connacht in 2016.
“I was surprised,” Wisemantel said.
“I can understand why. Right after this, I’m going to catch up with Andy Friend, the coach of Connacht. I’ve done my homework. We’ve looked at his games when he did play fullback in 2016 I think it was. He’s a very good player, he’ll adapt.”
Although Wisemantel’s fellow countryman, Andy Friend, wasn’t in charge of the westerners when Henshaw was plying his trade at 15, no doubt England’s attack coach will be looking for some insider knowledge of the Irish system when they catch up this afternoon.
One of the biggest challenges facing England is Ireland’s resolute defence led by former England coach Andy Farrell.
Wisemantel reveals that his side have a few tricks up their sleeve in order to break down Ireland’s rearguard and that he is also consulting his colleague Steve Borthwick who would have coached alongside Farrell on the British & Irish Lions tour in 2017.
“Score more points than they do,” Wisemantel joked when asked on how to crack Ireland’s defence.
“Look, we’ll chip away. We’ve got some things in place, I would be pretty naive to actually tell you what we’re going to do right now.
“But we’ve studied that really hard. Obviously, the other guy we have tapped into is Steve Borthwick, spending time with him [Andy Farrell] on the Lions tour. We have full respect of the system.”