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Henshaw is happy to put his shoulder to Irish wheel

By David Kelly

Robbie Henshaw was built to destroy though many of us would prefer to see him dance.

It takes two to tango, though, and, for now at least, the Leinster player must guide a younger partner through fledgling steps in the international dancehall.

And so Henshaw ploughs the frantic furrow of the inside man, crashing and barrelling and pummelling to eke out that extra inch or so that may allow his fleet-footed friend, hip-swaying Garry Ringrose, the space to so slash and dash and weave.

It seems so repugnant to romantic minds, as if cajoling the Gooch to be stationed at corner-back; yet needs must and, more importantly for those whose souls - and wallets - benefit from these matters, results dictate too.

Henshaw can deploy both the rapier and bludgeon at once, one recalls the thrilling Chicago dénoument, for example, where the subtlest step helped to propel him ferociously beyond a hat-trick of failing black-clad defenders to confirm Ireland's historic win.

Mostly, though, he has operated in a form of solitary confinement, content to hammer the defensive wall while others deploy a locksmith's charm.

Indeed, without Henshaw's selflessness, Ringrose could not possibly thrive in the claustrophobic Test arena as he has done.

"It is good to be able to do both, be a ball player and be a direct carrier," he demurs. "To help the team out I don't mind doing that role at all.

"It is like the NFL in international rugby, you don't have that time and space on the ball so taking it up the narrow channels in the middle, if it is what's needed, I can play that game and I don't mind doing it."

We may long for him to occupy wider prairies, perhaps even at full-back if not 13, in the future; his longing is more furtive.

"I can always change it if there are any injury worries or anything there," he says, confirming that he hasn't conceded a future without donning the 13 jersey many felt would be automatically bequeathed once Brian O'Driscoll retired. "But to be honest, the positions are quite similar once first-phase has finished."

As a 12, though, he isn't always the kid in the picture when the whitewash is breached.

As it was when his brutally eked out yardage ensured Conor Murray could wriggle over the line against France.

"Hopefully that's because I have done the hard work beforehand and I get the pat on the back afterwards," he offers in mitigation.

Jared Payne's potential return had hinted at the rupture of this fledgling, formidable partnership. The naysaying nitpickers point at Ringrose's errant defence to heighten a clamour to restore Payne; the Kiwi's injury has put paid to that particular notion.

And so, unlike Solomon, Henshaw is not pressurised to offer a definitive answer as to whose name he would prefer to highlight upon his dance card.

Anyway, his nature precludes him any discomfiting decision; he is just as enthusiastic about Payne returning as he is about Ringrose remaining. "It's going brilliant with Garry at the moment, I've enjoyed it, so hopefully I'll look to continue with Garry," he adds."

"We're just enjoying our rugby and we know it's going to be very tough for us, playing Wales in Cardiff (on Friday) is going to be top of the pile for toughness, physicality and pressure.

"We'll do our work this week but I enjoy playing with Garry, it's going well."

He has swapped roles; he is now the dominant midfield partner. "It's a little bit different, obviously, when I'm the elder guy. I feel that I step up a little bit more in terms of my voice and stuff.

"But Garry's voice is brilliant on the pitch as well and he's showed class in the last few weeks, he's got better and better.

"Obviously Jared has been around so long, his experience is great and his voice is brilliant as well."

Ringrose has hailed Henshaw's influence, too.

"He's just being a bit modest," says the older man. "He's class. I just try to talk to him on the pitch and give him that bit of confidence, when to go and in defence when to hit fellas.

"That helps him out but I'm just trying to secure him on the inside so that he can get up high in the line and make big hits.

"He was very sharp in attack and defence against France and he said he was just that sniff of nearly getting through.

"But he's getting better and better, and just looking to keep making those moves."

Meanwhile, Irish U-20s hooker Tadhg McElroy insists: "There is a lot more to come from our pack in the next few games."

The 19-year-old's years of impressing with Dundalk RFC at underage level led to Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock enticing him to join the AIL leaders.

Ireland remain very much in the hunt for a Grand Slam showdown with England on St Patrick's Day but they face their toughest test yet in Wales on Saturday.

"From the Scottish game, everyone doubted us in the scrum but we did a lot of work on it and put pride into it and that is starting to show," he said.

"There is a lot more to come from our pack in the next few games."

Belfast Telegraph

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