We’ll draw on Ireland’s Chicago heroics says Iain Henderson
Iain Henderson has no doubt that Ireland’s stunning victory over World champions New Zealand six months ago can help the British and Irish Lions this summer.
The Ireland forward remembers last November’s triumph in Chicago as an occasion when his colleagues “got in their faces, under their skin and disrupted them from their usual game”.
Although the Ulster ace missed undoubtedly the greatest win in Irish rugby history due to injury, he vividly recalls how Ireland took on and beat the All Blacks.
“The boys over in Chicago got under the All Blacks’ skin,” said Henderson, who assembled with 13 of his Lions colleagues for a first day of training in Wales yesterday.
“They made them cough up a loss. It was definitely a performance put in where the boys got in their faces, under their skin and disrupted them from their usual game.
“It will be what we are looking to do out there, not beat them at their game, but at our game.
“I am not sure how Gats (Lions head coach Warren Gatland) goes about things. We might look at it (Ireland’s win against New Zealand) to get round the All Blacks.
“He will know their players well and use his knowledge of them to our benefit. We are looking forward to seeing an awful lot more of what they are showing and how they are looking to play.
“We need to get this squad gelled together first and get those first few games out of the way.”
Henderson featured as a substitute when Ireland lost the return fixture 21-9 against New Zealand a fortnight later, and he added: “The Test in Dublin was frustrating.
“It would have been incredible to beat them again after doing it for a first time. We looked at the game and we had chances — we felt we put them under pressure and we showed Chicago was not a one-off.
“We didn’t do ourselves justice, the boys in that team wanted two wins. But it can give us confidence, certainly.
“The All Blacks, as talented as they are, have their weaknesses which can be exposed.”
Henderson’s introduction to training life with the Lions, meanwhile, began with an early morning trip to an altitude chamber.
“Everyone was in the altitude chamber for some fitness before breakfast, so it was a tough start, and we had some good sessions since,” he said.
“We aren’t used to this environment, but it was not a total shock — we all knew what it would be like.
“We have a while between now and the first Test, so we have an awful lot of training and matches to go before then.
“It is going to be key for everyone to drive on as a team, and the bigger headache we can give the coaches for the Test games the better.
“Watching any southern hemisphere teams, you get a different feel — you get more ball in hand, more tempo to the game. We should expect that and we will prepare for that.
“We are looking forward to playing in those high-speed games with ball in hand.”