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England 21-13 Ireland: Iain Henderson's the man for Ireland's call

By Jonathan Bradley

With Ireland now set to enter the World Cup on the back of consecutive defeats, Stephen Ferris remains unconcerned about the team's lack of momentum but has called for Iain Henderson to fill his old number six jersey at the tournament.

A poor first-half at Twickenham on Saturday left Ireland with far too much to do, the visitors ultimately falling 21-13 despite an improvement after the turn, and coupled with a defeat to Wales at the Aviva two Saturdays ago leaves Joe Schmidt's side having lost as many games in the last fortnight as they did in the previous 18 months.

Ferris, however, has first-hand experience of how little impact the results of warm-up games can have on a World Cup tournament.

Four year ago the Maghaberry man, who won 35 caps for Ireland before an ankle injury forced his retirement in the summer of 2014, was part of the squad preparing for a trip to New Zealand in seeming disarray.

That team lost home and away to France, in between defeats to Scotland and England, while David Wallace and Felix Jones both picked up injuries that ended their tournaments before they even began.

Jerry Flannery would break down soon after reaching the land of the long white cloud and a pedestrian opening victory against Eddie O'Sullivan's USA did little to lift spirits.

What followed was one of Ireland's most memorable World Cup outings, a 15-6 win over Australia in Eden Park with the game's signature image provided by Ferris driving Will Genia backwards at such a rate of knots that the Wallaby scrum-half must have feared he would be in the car park before the Irish flanker relented.

With that in mind, Ferris said: "We had a shocker in the four warm-up games, we lost them all and then ended up winning four on the trot so it just shows that it can be done.

"There's guys in the changing room like Paul O'Connell and Rory Best, experienced guys for whom any defeat hurts, especially against the old enemy in England.

"They'll be thinking about this the next couple of days but they've got to put it behind them.

"Draw a line in the sand, take out what was good in the performances and take that forward.

"Sometimes guys can concentrate on the bad but I think Joe, the way his man management is, he'll be able to get that line drawn and move forward into the first game of the World Cup.

"I think we showed in the first couple of warm games that the players are there.

"Joe will get the finer details sorted out. People have been saying that he has a few things up his sleeve and I fully believe that.

"I think we'll make a quarter-final and hopefully we can beat the history books and get to a semi.

"Do I think we're going to win the World Cup? No, I don't.

"I think there's better teams out there, better squads out there, that can give it a better run."

At the 2011 tournament, Ferris was part of a back-row unit alongside current starters Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip, his place having since been filled by Peter O'Mahony, but the 30-year-old would like to see his former Ulster teammate Iain Henderson start at blindside.

"The one thing that's missing in the back-row is a bit of go-forward and for me Iain Henderson brings that in abundance.

"He's just got so much power. He's an athlete.

"He's been put in the second-row but you saw the way he was playing with Ulster last year in the back-row, man-of-the-match performances and getting around the park.

"In the second-row I feel he's slightly burnt out.

"No disrespect to second-rows but you have to do a lot more donkey work.

"Iain Henderson is best at getting ball in hand and setting up opportunities for everybody else.

"Sean O'Brien isn't firing on all cylinders at the minute, when he does the back-row will be more cohesive and a better unit but, for me, I'd be picking Iain Henderson.

"Everyone is saying do you start him ahead of Devin Toner?

"For me, Devin Toner hasn't put a foot wrong.

"He's a great line-out option and he works well with Paul O'Connell so where do you put Iain?

"I know Iain Henderson well, and we've had many a chat, he prefers playing in the back-row.

"We'll have to wait and see."

With Ireland's first game now under two weeks away, that wait is almost over.

Stephen Ferris was speaking at the Hudson Bar in Belfast as an ambassador for Heineken's 'It's Your Call' campaign.




ENGLAND: Brown; Watson, Joseph, Barritt, May; Ford, B Youngs; Marler, T Youngs, Cole, Lawes, Parling, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan.

Replacements: Burgess for Barritt (69), George for T Youngs (59), Wigglesworth for B Youngs (59), M Vunipola for Marler (55), Brookes for Cole (61), B Vunipola for Morgan (55), Launchbury for Parling (60), Farrell for Ford (60).

IRELAND: Zebo; Bowe, Payne, Henshaw, D Kearney; Sexton, Murray; J McGrath, Best, Ross, Toner, O'Connell, O'Mahony, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements: Furlong for Zebo (69), Madigan for Henshaw (59), Cave for D Kearney (59), Reddan for Murray (18), Strauss for Best (60), White for Ross (59), Ryan for O'Connell (65), Henry for O'Brien (60).

Match rating: 6/10

Man of the match: Jonny May (pictured)

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Attendance: 80,138

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