Back rower Chris Henry says there has been plenty of edge to Ireland’s training sessions this week as they gear up for their GUINNESS Series showdown with Argentina on Saturday.
Declan Kidney’s men are preparing for an intense, physical battle with the Pumas, knowing that a win will secure their second tier seeding for Monday week’s pool allocation draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
A home victory would also wrap up the GUINNESS Series on a very positive note, especially with the number of international newcomers stepping up this month.
Chris Henry is one of the 16 players with five Test caps or less who have been working away at Carton House under Kidney’s guidance in recent weeks.
Talking about the competitiveness and robustness of training, Henry admitted: “Yeah, there is bite and there are people fighting. From teams I’ve been involved with in the past, when you’re this edgy this early in the week and you’re getting tetchy with your team-mates, that’s probably a good sign.
“It’s boiling up. Losing to South Africa two weeks ago definitely was one of the hardest moments of my rugby career. Losing at home, it’s hard to take and I didn’t think it would hurt as much as it did.”
Wearing the number 7 jersey, the clash with the Springboks was Henry’s first home international after winning his previous caps in Australia and New Zealand.
His fourth Test appearance should come this weekend, and the 28-year-old, enjoying being part of this new-look squad, is eager to make amends for the 16-12 defeat to South Africa.
“We definitely have a lot invested in each other. We’ve talked a lot about believing in each other and having confidence with the team we have because of all the injuries.
“So, everyone put everything they could into that South African game and unfortunately it just wasn’t enough.
“I don’t think we’re far off. Against South Africa, even up to the last play of the game I still believed we were going to get back and get the win. That’s why it was just so heartbreaking that we lost,” he said.
The Ulster powerhouse has past experience of facing Argentinian opposition, coming off the bench in the second half of the Ireland Wolfhounds’ 31-0 win over Argentina’s ‘A’ side in Tallaght three years ago.
But Henry knows Santiago Phelan’s Test team will be a completely different kettle of fish, buoyed by their recent run-outs in the inaugural Rugby Championship and a 26-12 success over Wales in Cardiff.
“People talk about Argentina and their big packs and how they outmuscle you but against New Zealand, they scored an unbelievable try (from scrum half Martin Landajo) which they created from their start-off play,” he explained.
“They made five or six incredible offloads and scored in the corner, so it’s not the Argentina of old.
“They’ve got that physicality and aggression, which I’m sure they’ll come with, that passion they have…but they’re not a one-trick pony.
“We know we’ve got to be on the money how we defend and how we approach them because they’re not afraid to pass the ball and they’ve got some skilful players.”
Kidney’s charges have had a player sin-binned in both of their GUINNESS Series games so far this month, losing captain Jamie Heaslip against the ‘Boks and Henry himself saw yellow as a replacement in the Ireland XV’s 53-0 triumph over Fiji in Limerick.
Henry agrees Ireland can ill-afford to let their discipline slip against the Pumas, particularly around the breakdown area which is sure to be fiercely contested on Saturday afternoon.
“Last week (against Fiji) I came on and gave away a stupid penalty that cost a yellow card and Jamie the week before also got a yellow card. So that’s been discussed as well.
“South Africa was the exact same and there are times when we’ve got to just take the safe option and not give away those softies.”