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Rugby World Cup: Jared Payne reunion not a problem, insists Robbie Henshaw

By Jonathan Bradley

Ahead of a pool-deciding meeting with France at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday, Ireland's Robbie Henshaw has dismissed concerns that he has yet to feature alongside Ulster's Jared Payne at the World Cup.

The pair comprised Joe Schmidt's first-choice midfield during the victorious 2015 Six Nations campaign but they have not been able to reprise the relationship since the final World Cup warm-up against England at the beginning of last month.

The young Connacht star missed the tournament's first two games - wins over Canada and Romania - with a hamstring strain but returned for the laboured victory against Italy.

Payne, however, was absent from the Olympic Stadium triumph with a bruised foot and watched on in a protective boot.

Management are hopeful, though, that he will be fit for the Cardiff showdown and Henshaw would welcome the Ulster outside centre's return.

"We will be fine," said the Athlone man. "I know Jared really well now. We have played a lot of games together in November and the Six Nations.

"It's about getting together, having a look at a bit of vision and getting together on the pitch. If he slots in next week I'll be good to go with him. I know him inside out."

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Having overcome the hamstring complaint picked up in Ireland's final training session before departing for the tournament, the 22-year-old was understandably relieved to belatedly get his World Cup under way.

"I was itching to be out there, it would have been unbelievable to be at Wembley last week but I'm here and I've got my first game at the World Cup under my belt so I am happy now.

"It was tough on the lungs in the first-half and a bit of a wake-up call because it was four weeks since my last 80 (minutes).

"It was a bit of a slog. I thought it was a different type of game. There was a lot of turnover ball and we didn't really get going but we're happy."

Henshaw thinks Ireland will have to fare better in the battle of the breakdown when meeting Philippe Saint-Andre's side.

"I just didn't get that much ball in hand and we kicked a little bit more ball in the second-half," he said.

"There was a lot of turnover ball. We didn't build the phases and their defence was pretty good, in fairness to them.

"They put up a stiff challenge and the breakdown was a bit of an issue.

"We can demand ball but we have to hold onto it first of all before we can get it and I thought we were loose enough with the ball.

"We haven't been as loose with the ball in the last couple of weeks. We just need to hold onto it and get more go-forward ball. That gives us more space and time.

"Ultimately, that's how we will start running in tries like we did the last couple of weeks. The ball wasn't that quick.

"They were presenting a tough challenge at the breakdown and slowed the ruck for us."

Belfast Telegraph


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