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Hendy keen to topple All Blacks and create more history

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 28/06/2016

Ireland Rugby Tour South Africa 2016 Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Sun Boardwalk Hotel, Port Elizabeth, South Africa 21/6/2016
Iain Henderson
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland Rugby Tour South Africa 2016 Ireland Rugby Press Conference, Sun Boardwalk Hotel, Port Elizabeth, South Africa 21/6/2016 Iain Henderson Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

As he looks ahead to next season, Iain Henderson certainly isn't feeling the weight of history on his broad shoulders. The dynamic Ulster star was part of the Ireland side that claimed a maiden away victory over South Africa earlier this month and, despite the disappointment of subsequently failing to clinch the series, has already turned his attention to the men in green's most famous of barren streaks.

Ireland have met the All Blacks 27 times and, bar a solitary draw in 1973, have always come out on the wrong side.

The most recent reverse came in 2013 after having been 19-0 ahead and then up by five in the final seconds only for Ryan Crotty's try and Aaron Cruden's conversion to break Irish hearts once again.

With two bites at the most elusive of cherries before the end of 2016 - Ireland take on the World champions at Soldier Field, Chicago in the first week of November before a rematch in the Aviva later that month - Henderson wants the hoodoo to end this year.

"One thing we can take from this is that as a side, even being a young side, we've made history once on this tour and there's no reason why we can't do it again," said the 24-year-old.

"No Irish team has ever beaten the All Blacks and I don't see any reason why we can't.

"We've got two opportunities to go and do it and hopefully in Chicago we can look to turn them over there and, if that happens, we'll look to build on it the next week and the next week and go from there."

Both in terms of its historic setting and the lingering memory of Ireland's late collapse in that last meeting, this must be considered one of the most anticipated Tests of Joe Schmidt's tenure.

While by the time it rolls around things will have become clear, there currently remains the distinct possibility that it could also be one of the head coach's final games in charge.

With a contract that runs out at the end of next season, it looks increasingly likely that family reasons - his teenage son Luke suffers from epilepsy - could see the Kiwi return home at the end of the upcoming campaign.

For Henderson, Schmidt (right) makes the players feel like anything is possible.

"The terms Joe and detail are linked together. Everyone says it and I think it's because of, not only rugby, but his whole approach. Players feel that he has such an impact on them and makes them feel that they can be better and can always get better," said the Ulsterman.

"That's one thing he adds to the younger players and I know the older players feel that he's always adding to them as well.

"Joe is someone who is constantly striving for perfection in everything he does. Not only players, but management and staff. Everyone has learned from him and everyone that has learned from him, it's been a part of bringing Irish rugby forward from what it was in my first Six Nations when we lost to Italy and that Scotland game.

"Off the back of those results, Joe has turned things around and it's been massive for Irish rugby."

Despite a disappointing fortnight to conclude their long season - a 16-point lead was squandered in the second Test against the Springboks while Saturday's decisive six-point defeat came despite enjoying 68% possession and 73% territory - Henderson is looking forward to a bright future with the international side as they build towards the 2019 World Cup.

"There are so many class players coming through," he said. "It's good to see a strong representation from Connacht, Matt Healy and Tiernan (O'Halloran) both doing really, really well. Kieran Marmion's sitting there too.

"He's been in almost every Irish camp that I've been in since 2012, so he's been in there and knows the gist of things.

"He knows what's going on and he'll come through in the November series and do a really good job.

"That's another one from Connacht, the likes of Jordi Murphy coming through and stepping up after not playing a huge amount before.

"Players like that are doing really, really well, coming through and not having the same experience, but bringing what they've given to their provinces through to senior level, stepping up and playing well.

"It's fantastic. We're missing a few big names and people would have been sceptical when we left Dublin, but fair play to the young guys for stepping up and putting their hands up."

Belfast Telegraph

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