Iain Henderson has described the chance of lifting Six Nations silverware with Ireland this weekend as “massive.”
Andy Farrell’s side can claim the Triple Crown by beating Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and may even still be crowned Six Nations champions should England halt current leaders France over in Paris later the same evening.
“We have this opportunity to potentially do something special,” said Henderson.
The chance of winning a sixth Triple Crown since the onset of the Six Nations — and what would be their 12 overall — would also be particularly memorable as this would be the first time since 2004 that Ireland will have claimed a trophy when playing on home soil.
“To lift silverware internationally would be massive and in front of a home crowd would be unbelievable.” added the Ulster skipper. The guys who have been involved for a number of years know how difficult it is to come across something internationally, in some form of silverware.”
Henderson added: “So we’ll focus on the Triple Crown and hope that what we do during the week covers that off. Then whatever happens after that will be an added bonus. I believe the excitement that this has brought us leading into this week has been huge and is a massive driver for us.”
Henderson looks odds-on to start on Saturday, as both fellow locks James Ryan and Ryan Baird have been ruled out of contention, and the 30-year-old is determined to claim at least one piece of silverware this weekend on what has been an injury and Covid disrupted campaign.
“It’s been an incredibly frustrating season and I’d be delighted to get back in (the starting team),” Henderson said.
“But we’ve got to make sure that we set all the excitement aside so that we can concentrate on our game.”
Henderson played most of last weekend’s record 32-15 victory at Twickenham after Ryan’s second minute departure, which also saw England reduced to 14 players due to Charlie Ewels red card and Farrell’s side struggled for a long period before eventually putting their hosts away.
Describing the difficulties encountered at Twickenham, prior to the late flurry of points which secured the result, he said: “We had a few moments together and we were able to pull it together nice and tight and confirm to each other what we wanted.
“We’re confident that we still have a good scrum,” he added, in regards to the six set-piece penalties which were awarded to England by referee Mathieu Raynal.
“There were a few variables, but we (now) probably understand that when things aren’t going your way, you don’t try to beat it with a big stick and we can maybe try and look at other ways to fix it and maybe get our communication with the referee a wee bit better.
“Towards the end of the game we got back on track for what we had to do.”
As for Saturday, apart from identifying Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Scotland’s back row as all providing plenty of danger to Ireland’s hopes, Henderson spoke of the need for greater focus from the home squad.
“We’ve got to stick to our game-plan and if we can get our defence to look after itself, hopefully our attack with flow freely.”
Henderson, who should win his 68th Test cap on Saturday, has been part of three previously successful Irish sides – the 2014 and 2015 Championship wins – the latter when France and England played out a drama-filled game which secured the title for Ireland on points difference – as well as the clean sweep of four years ago when the Irish bagged the Grand Slam, Six Nations title and Triple Crown.
The last time Ireland raised a trophy when playing at home, 18 years ago, also came against Scotland with the Triple Crown on offer for the hosts.