Robbie Henshaw Likely To Feature Heavily Against Springboks

Joe Schmidt looks set to throw Connacht Robbie Henshaw into action against the Springboks in Ireland’s first of their November series games.

The last of the centre’s three appearances for Ireland came during a 14 minutes spell in last year’s Autumn test against Australia, but the retirement of Brian O’Driscoll looks set see him fight it out with Ulster’s Jared Payne for the vacant slot. Should he start he will likely come up against Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who has 99 more caps to his name than Henshaw, and fellow 21-year-old Jan Serfontein. While not the ideal gradual introduction however, Schmidt is confident he can make the grade.

“I guess in nine days time we will know,” said Schmidt on whether Henshaw was ready to start. “You never know until a player has been put in a position. There would be better ways for Robbie to be prepared, probably a better introduction, a more gradual introduction to come against (Jan) Serfontaine and Jean de Villiers most likely. That is a massive ask. We know a bit about Jean de Villiers with his time spent in Munster and we know him a little bit. Serfontaine is a player who has improved massively in the last 18 months.

“He is a very complete player. He is a very strong player, but a very good reader of the game as well now. Those two and whoever is inside them, whether it’s (Handre) Pollard or (Pay) Lambie or (Morne) Steyn, Robbie gets the opportunity to do his job and how much help he can give to the wingers because we are going to stay connected there with whether it be (Bryan) Habana, JP Pietersen or Cornel Hendricks, or (Willie) le Roux chiming in from the back. There is a good challenge for him there. Whether he is ready for the challenge, as I’ve said, we will find out.”

But Schmidt also the option of starting former New Zealand U21 international and Ulster centre/full-back Jared Payne. Neither Payne nor Henshaw traveled to the summer tour of Argentina due to being ineligible and rested, but Payne’s four years spent in New Zealand between 2007-2011 with the Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues is seen as an advantage for Schmidt who is also keeping an eye on fellow Ulster centre Stuart Olding, who starts for Ulster in the Guinness Pro12 this weekend.

“I think there is potential for Jared to start. He ran today with Gordon D’Arcy and Robbie Henshaw. We’re keeping an eye on Stuart Olding this weekend and again Stuart Olding is another guy that needs some game time. With Jared, his angles of running, his ability to read the defense and defend successfully has been top notch.

“His ability to play a little bit of a kicking game from a second receiver is another asset for Jared with his full-back skills. He has brought a little bit of experience. He has played against a number of these South African players before. That is an a bit of an advantage as well, knowing your opponent and he can bring that experience to the group.”

Cillian O Conchuir, Pundit Arena.

Read More About: , , , , , ,

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.