Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup: Willie John McBride tips rising star Iain Henderson to become roaring success with Lions

By Jonathan Bradley

Willie John McBride has backed Ulster's Iain Henderson to follow in his footsteps and become a British and Irish Lion.

Henderson has been one of the stars of the World Cup's opening week and is preparing to face Romania at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

McBride - a five-time Lion who captained the touring squad on their famous undefeated trip to South Africa in 1974 - has been an admirer of Henderson in recent seasons and was impressed by the 23-year-old's try-scoring performance against Canada in his World Cup debut last Saturday.

"I've been watching him for a couple of years now and I think he's an outstanding player," enthused McBride.

"If he can keep away from injury, I'd be really disappointed if he's not out there on the next Lions tour.

"He's going to have a great World Cup. He's what I call an honest forward. Not only that, he's on the ball all the time. He does all the little things. Whether it's on the ground or in the air, and being on the ball, he can do it all.

"He's obviously a strong guy and one of my favourite things about him is he makes ground.

"He doesn't waste any time running stupidly across the field rather than going forward."

While McBride is at the forefront in the history of Ulster's Lions, Robin Thompson also captained the side from the second row in 1955 while fellow lock Jeremy Davidson was player of the tour on the 1997 trip.

McBride believes Henderson is the man to continue the fine tradition.

"He has all the qualities and all the abilities to be a Lion, there's no question about that.

"He has the size, he has the ability. You have to like the way he's shaping up."

McBride, who represented Ireland on 63 occasions, was not only impressed by Henderson on Saturday however and is also a huge advocate of head coach Joe Schmidt.

On the man who masterminded back-to-back Six Nations titles, McBride said: "We're very fortunate in Ireland at the moment that we have an excellent coach who doesn't get carried away with stupid things.

"I'm sure he'll be drilling into them that we take this game by game. That's what you have to do in the World Cup, you can't look too far ahead.

"Just take the next game as it comes. They'll have a good World Cup, I'd be very disappointed if they didn't.

"I was very pleased with what I saw against Canada. It was a game I felt that Ireland got a grip of early and then were able to play within themselves.

"They didn't have to extend themselves. They have to strive to get better and I'm sure that they'll have been working on things ahead of taking on Romania."

Enthused by Ireland at the weekend, and expecting a memorable tournament from the side ranked fifth in the world, McBride still believes that holders New Zealand will become the first side to retain the Webb Ellis trophy.

Steve Hansen's men toiled somewhat in their opening game against Argentina on Sunday, trailing in the second-half before eventually winning 26-16, but McBride thinks they once again have the look of champions.

"It's very hard to come away from the All Blacks," he said.

"They've been playing some great rugby over the last couple of years, I just hope we get to see it.

"They're a team who, and you saw it at the weekend against Argentina, have that quality even when things are going against them.

"They have great patience and great belief in themselves."

Willie John McBride was guest of honour at the launch of Ireland's Call: Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell in the Great War at Kingspan Stadium last night. It is the latest book from award-winning BBC journalist Stephen Walker and provides the poignant account of the Irish sporting heroes who perished on the battlefields of the Great War.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph