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Henshaw fired up to produce power-packed display in his only outing ahead of World Cup

 

On way back: Robbie Henshaw at Ireland training at Carton House yesterday
On way back: Robbie Henshaw at Ireland training at Carton House yesterday
Bundee Aki
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

When last Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose were all available to Joe Schmidt, England were in town and we bore witness to Henshaw's much debated stint in the 15 jersey.

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The Athlone man has played plenty of full-back in his time, most frequently when breaking through at Connacht, and while he didn't particularly do himself justice that day, few in the green jersey did.

The fact that it remains so much discussed can be traced to the slightly peculiar notion that we still don't know Ireland's first-choice centre partnership.

So infrequently have the aforementioned three men been fit at the same time since Aki came onto the scene, with that Six Nations opener the notable exception, that Schmidt has yet really to nail his colours to the mast with the World Cup now just two weeks away.

"I think we're very fortunate in that we're probably at a place where we're unbelievably comfortable and happy whoever within those four that have been selected would play in those centre partnerships," said defence coach Andy Farrell yesterday, including the squad's fourth centre, Fivemiletown man Chris Farrell, in the mix.

"And because of (the variety of) other partnerships in the past, I think that adds to the strength of our centre partnerships as a whole really.

"The balance is pretty good and I think the balance of the squad in general for who may come into those positions, or different positions, is one that could work in many different directions as well."

Similarly, Henshaw himself believes that all the enforced alterations in selection has meant that the squad travel to Japan with four players confident of delivering when handed a starting jersey.

"If you look back in the green shirt, there's been so much chopping and changing through injuries," he said. "It was important to have cover there because we've been unlucky and guys have got the call-up and stepped in."

Starting at 13 tomorrow against Wales (2pm kick-off), with his old Connacht team-mate Aki inside him, Henshaw has spent most of the summer focused on both centre roles, with a little bit of time devoted to going over the full-back role once again.

Ringrose in contrast has been cited as the wholly versatile midfielder in recent weeks, coming onto the wing last week and having to cover a range of backline positions from the bench again tomorrow.

"He can probably play anywhere in the backline, to be honest," said Henshaw of his Leinster team-mate.

"He's able to cover a lot and it's no harm being able to cover a few different positions. It definitely improves your game, seeing different pictures in different positions and stuff, so it's good."

Like Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls, tomorrow sees Henshaw's first action of the summer but he's not taking this as any pre-season run out.

"It's vital for us that we get a good bit of confidence out of this game and put in a good performance," he added.

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