Rugby World Cup: I'll take my chance on world stage, says Iain Henderson
Ulster star Iain Henderson is relishing the opportunity to take on the world... and is thrilled to do it with an Ireland legend beside him.
Marking another step on his road to stardom, the 23-year-old will start at lock alongside captain Paul O’Connell when Joe Schmidt’s Irish side begin their World Cup campaign against Canada today (2.30pm) in the Millennium Stadium.
With Henderson having made such a huge impact in his short Test career, it is easy to forget that during the last World Cup he had yet to even make his Ulster debut.
Having edged out Devin Toner for the number four jersey, however, he makes his tournament bow as a fully-fledged frontliner.
“I was delighted that Joe had the confidence to choose me,” said Henderson at the Millennium Stadium following Ireland’s captain’s run yesterday.
“I’m over the moon to get a start beside Paul O’Connell obviously. That’s a big, big boost for me.”Henderson added: "I'll take great confidence from that as well. I've come off the bench with him a couple of times in the Six Nations and we've spent the last 10 weeks together in camp.
"Everything can be constantly improved, but I do feel comfortable with him in there and I'm sure that will improve as time moves on.
"Joe has backed me, put me in the starting squad and that's a massive confidence booster for me.
"I can only try to take my opportunity as I've tried to take my opportunities in the past.
"Hopefully that would be the grounding of me cementing a place in the starting team."
Aiming to shake the tag of impact sub, Henderson is out to show that he can maintain his performance levels over the course of a full 80 minutes and believes that he is making ongoing progress when it comes to showing coach Schmidt his fitness is where it needs to be for Test-level rugby.
"Throughout the start of last season I was injured for a good bit and coming back. Had I have been thrown in the deep end and started any of those Six Nations games I would have been blowing a wee bit," he explained.
"I think it was more like an open topic. I knew it, he (Schmidt) knew it, everybody knew it. "I understand that it is a work-on for me.
"I'm sure other teams will pick up on it, as we pick up on other teams' weaknesses and strengths.
"It is something I've always had to work on and in doing so Jason Cowman, our S&C coach, has been putting me through my paces in the pre-season, trying to get me as fit as I can be."
Ireland will start as strong favourites to beat Canada, Romania and Italy, before facing France on October 11.
The Pool D winners should avoid a quarter-final against New Zealand.