Ireland must improve on ‘scrappy’ Wales win to topple England – Robbie Henshaw

By Sports Desk February 25, 2024

Robbie Henshaw insists Grand Slam-chasing Ireland must improve on a “scrappy” win over Wales in order to topple England at “cauldron” Twickenham.

Andy Farrell’s men kept themselves on course for successive Guinness Six Nations clean sweeps by registering a third consecutive bonus-point victory with Saturday’s 31-7 triumph in Dublin.

Ireland raced into a 17-0 half-time lead but then endured some nervy moments against Warren Gatland’s unfancied visitors before running out resounding victors.

The reigning champions have a fortnight’s break for fine tuning ahead of taking on Steve Borthwick’s side in south-west London on March 9.

“We knew Wales had nothing to lose and they threw the kitchen sink at us,” said Henshaw, who came off the bench in a 32-15 win away to England in the 2022 championship.

“The game itself was quite scrappy and we got momentum and it then stalled a bit.

“The fact we finished strong was a positive for us and it sets us up nicely for the next few weeks.

“Twickenham’s always a tricky place to go. It’s always that kind of cauldron environment.

“The last time we played there we had a good result but it’s going to be a tough game. We’ll have to get better again.”

Tries from Dan Sheehan, James Lowe, Ciaran Frawley and Tadhg Beirne, plus 11 points from the boot of Jack Crowley, were sufficient to comfortably dispatch Wales.

Ireland are now the only team yet to lose in this year’s tournament after England were beaten 30-21 in their Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland on Saturday evening.

The Scots are due to visit the Aviva Stadium on the final weekend.

Henshaw says Grand Slam talk will remain muted for the time being.

“It (back-to-back Grand Slams) is out there but we’re literally taking it game to game and training session to training session,” he said.

“Our next focus will be England and putting in a huge performance there.

“That (the Grand Slam) is in the background. We need to be looking at England and probably no further.”

Henshaw has played all-but 17 minutes of Ireland’s campaign so far on the back of a frustrating World Cup, severely hampered by injury.

The 30-year-old, who has partnered both Bundee Aki and Stuart McCloskey amid the injury absence of Garry Ringrose, is pleased to be back on track at Test level and feels midfield competition is fierce.

“Form comes with minutes you play and the more games you play, probably the better you will get,” he said.

“For me, the positive thing is just getting that run of games with Leinster and then into this campaign. It’s great to have back-to-back games and just building on it.

“Everyone who’s been playing this season has been on fire for their club.

“We’re blessed that we have such talent in the country that Stuart McCloskey last week stepped in and did an unbelievable job and Bundee’s been bringing his World Cup form through to this season.

“We’re in a great place with the talent we have and it’s great to see the performances being put on the pitch.”

Related items

  • Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury

    Former Wales captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from the game after failing to recover from a back problem.

    The 37-year-old hooker, who played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has been sidelined for almost a year because of the injury, last playing for the Scarlets in April 2023.

    Owens won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles during his 91 caps for Wales, whom he led during last year’s Six Nations.

    “Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby. Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots,” he said.

    “Had I written the script there would have been one more game for Wales, for the Scarlets and ultimately Carmarthen Athletic. A chance to sign off and thank everyone involved.

    “It was not to be. It might not be the dream ending, but my career has been more than I could have dreamt of.

    “Whilst part of me wishes I could have done more, I am well aware that if you had told me as a kid I would be fortunate enough to experience what I have, to have worked with and played with the people I have and taken the pleasure I have from this amazing game, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

  • Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup

    Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists the Gallagher Premiership should aim to match Leinster’s ambition by developing their own ‘Fortnum and Mason’ recruitment policy.

    The Irish province have pulled off a major coup by signing New Zealand’s brilliant centre Jordie Barrett while in the prime of his career as he has agreed a short-term deal for next season.

    Baxter believes the 27-year-old’s sabbatical is valuable for European rugby and wants the English top flight to also become an appealing destination for overseas stars.

    “It makes you a bit jealous that you’re not working in Leinster’s recruitment department!” Baxter said.

    “I know (former Saracens, Sale and Worcester director of rugby) Steve Diamond once said it depends what shop you go shopping in: is it Waitrose or is it Aldi?”

    Referencing an upmarket London department store, Baxter continued: “It might be Fortnum and Mason depending on how you want to look at it!

    “If Irish rugby, Leinster and the United Rugby Championship can get their house in order to allow them to invest in players, their programme and their coaches like they do, you have to say fair play.

    “My response would be, ‘let’s not try to say it’s not fair and limit Leinster, let’s look to ways we can get to that level of competition with them’.

    “You can look around and say, ‘let’s stop everyone else doing it because we can’t do it’. Or you go, ‘what are they doing to develop that level of interest and finance and why can’t we do it?’.

    “I don’t think it’s bad for these competitions to have world-class players. What we want to find out is ways that we can do it as well.

    “You have to work to make the competition look attractive and the way the game is played look attractive.

    “To get that deal in place to sign a player you have to get a lot of financial bits and pieces right – and that runs right from the top of the game to the bottom in the country.

    “There’s a lot we have to do to get to that level, but why shouldn’t we be aiming for it? That’s what we should be trying to do.”

    The Premiership has defied its critics by supplying two teams to the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals in Northampton and Harlequins, with Leinster and Toulouse completing the line-up.

    Baxter believes that has been managed even though the league has temporarily been reduced to a “developing competition” due to the financial implications of the pandemic and lack of funds in the English game.

    “Two sides in the semi-finals is obviously fantastic. We want to expose the Premiership to as many new viewers as we can, for obvious reasons. Whether we make it a regular occurrence, that’s the challenge,” the director of rugby said.

    “The Premiership is expected to be a developing competition again. We’ve had to do a lot of things around Covid and the financial situation in the country.

    “We’ve had to make some adjustments but we will hope as a competition that we will regrow ourselves over the coming period as well.”

  • 7 British and Irish athletes to watch at the Paris 2024 Olympics 7 British and Irish athletes to watch at the Paris 2024 Olympics

    With 100 days to go until the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympics, the PA news agency picks out seven top British and Irish athletes to watch.

    Keely Hodgkinson

    Hodgkinson could be forgiven for feeling sick of silver linings. The 800m star has finished second to either Athing Mu or Mary Moraa at a series of big events including the Tokyo Olympics (to Mu), and last year’s World Championships (to Moraa). It will take a Herculean effort to go one better in Paris, but all eyes will be on what should prove one of the most competitive events of the track and field programme.

    Kimberley Woods

    Woods heads to Paris as the reigning world champion in the exhilarating and brand new Olympic discipline of kayak-cross, involving heats in which four competitors hurtle down the same whitewater course simultaneously. Despite its inherent unpredictability, the 28-year-old from Rugby also won the overall World Cup title in 2023 and has proved a cut above her closest rivals.

    Bradly Sinden

    The Doncaster taekwondo star was disappointed with a silver medal in the men’s -68kg category in Tokyo and vowed to learn from his mistakes. He will return to Olympic competition with a second world title in the bag and as a strong favourite to finally make good on his lifelong ambition and turn that agonising silver into gold in the French capital.

    Bryony Page

    A surprise silver medallist on the women’s trampoline in Rio, Page returned to the podium with a bronze medal in Tokyo. At the age of 33 her confidence continues to rocket, and World Championship gold in Birmingham in 2023 – where she shunted Olympic champion Zhu Xueying into second place – suggests Page has what it takes to complete the set in Paris.

    Tom Dean

    Double Tokyo gold medallist Dean set himself the staggering target of five medals in Paris only to find the recent British Championships did not go to plan. Likely to be denied the chance to defend his 200m freestyle title, Dean nevertheless remains determined to make multiple visits to the podium as he heads up one of the most promising British swimming squads in decades.

    Emma Wilson

    Wilson, who won windsurfing bronze in Tokyo, is well placed to land gold in Marseille after making a stunning statement at this year’s World Championships, in which she won 15 of 20 qualifying races before finishing second in the winner-takes-all final race. Her consistency at the top level makes her arguably the best medal bet among the traditional surge of British sailing contenders.

    Rhys McClenaghan

    The Irish pommel ace finally ascended to the top of his sport after winning the 2022 World Championships in Liverpool, and went on to repeat the feat in Antwerp last year. McClenaghan, who was denied a medal in Tokyo after an early error, will relish the prospect of renewing his long-time rivalry with defending Olympic champion Max Whitlock in Paris.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.