Robbie Henshaw admitted Ireland will need to be ‘more clinical’ for next Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations encounter with Wales. That game kicks off at 2.15pm with the Welsh, 42-0 conquerors of Italy, topping the table after the first round.
The Leinster centre played his part off the bench as Andy Farrell’s Ireland kicked off their Championship campaign with a gritty 19-12 victory over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
They came under sustained pressure from Gregor Townsend’s men at various intervals, and with Wales running in five unanswered tries against Italy earlier on the same day, Henshaw realises they will have to crank up their performance levels.
“We need to be more clinical. I think at times when we had them (Scotland) pumped into the corners, we probably let them away with not keeping the ball in the maul. We got turned over a few times when we had them in their corner,” admitted the Athlone man afterwards.
“We probably should have come away with more points. In terms of Scotland, they gave away penalties when we were building into it. They were happy to take three at times.”
Following a hand injury to outside centre Garry Ringrose, Henshaw was introduced as a half-time replacement. Despite acknowledging it was a difficult match to settle into, he was pleased to make a contribution to Ireland’s winning start to 2020.
“It was good to get 40 minutes there. At the moment in camp, we have six really good centres and it’s really competitive. It’s going to drive the standard of training and of our performances upwards. It’s great to have competition and for everyone to be fighting for their place.
“I think the whole game was a bit stop-start. It was difficult enough to try and impose yourself on it. It was that type of game, but when we got the ball and held the ball, we were doing well. When Scotland held the ball, they were gaining yards as well. They were tough to defend.”
The 26-year-old back added: “Good to start with a win. It’s a tough campaign, you need to get the ball rolling early. The only way to do that is to start with a win. Fair play to Scotland, they brought their ‘A’ game and definitely challenged us at times. It was a real tough, physical Test.
“Scotland had a few chances and they had a few unfortunate moments. They dropped one ball over the line. From our defensive perspective, we were right up there in terms of not letting them in.
“Turning them over on the line when it needed to be done. That was really positive from us, and I think defensively we really stuck in there when we needed to.”
As well as being Ireland’s maiden game of 2020 – and their first since the Rugby World Cup in Japan earlier in the season – it was former defence coach Farrell’s first Test in charge of the team.
Henshaw is enjoying the Wigan man’s leadership of the squad so far and hopes that Saturday’s hard-fought triumph can be the catalyst for a successful spring for Ireland.
“It’s a very enjoyable camp at the moment and we had a good week’s camp in Portugal. Delighted to get the campaign off to a positive start. It’s all good at the moment. It’s a happy camp. Everyone is looking forward to the next few weeks and building on this momentum.”
As a man who has endured his own injury trauma, Henshaw was delighted to see Jonathan Sexton showing no ill-effects of his recent knee issue. A 19-point haul – including a decisive converted try during the opening quarter – heralded Sexton’s return to the pitch after an absence of almost eight weeks.
“That’s one thing you always worry about from being out from an injury, that the pace of the game might pass you by or you might be struggling to stay up with it,” he acknowledged.
“When Johnny played from minute one to whenever he went off (in the 73rd minute), he didn’t look anything like that. He was sharp. He was very good and on top of his work. It was brilliant to see.”