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main man 'It's great to have Paulie on board' – Iain Henderson says POC already working on fixing lineout issues

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Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Ian Henderson training together in 2015

Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Ian Henderson training together in 2015

SPORTSFILE

Ireland's Paul O'Connell and Ian Henderson training together in 2015

Paul O’Connell has already reached out to the leading lineout figures in the Ireland squad to begin his work as forwards coach.

Speaking to former teammate Niall Annett on the ‘Wind Your Neck In’ podcast, Iain Henderson revealed that his former second-row partner has been in touch a number of times since being appointed to Andy Farrell’s coaching staff a week ago.

Henderson is hoping to recover from the medial ligament knee injury he picked up in November in time to start alongside James Ryan in the opening Six Nations match against Wales on February 7.

And the Grand Slam-winning Ulster captain says he’s excited to get to work with the former Munster, Ireland and Lions skipper.

“Within the last week I’ve been chatting to Paulie a couple of times already, he’s been really keen to get back involved,” he said.

“He’s got a mad love for rugby and an even madder love for lineouts.

“But, it’s great to have him on board. I loved playing with him and hated playing against him. It’s one of the questions I get asked, ‘who’s the toughest player you ever played against’ but he is mine.

“Probably not the first time I played against him, but when I played with him I realised how destructive he is for you (the opposition) and how constructive he is for his own team.

“Then you see that unfolding in a game when you’re playing against him.

“It’s great to have someone like that on board. For the young lads, it’s someone they looked up to. I know from when I didn’t call lineouts how helpful he was for me, putting pressure on me to do stuff and get stuff right.”

Henderson said that O’Connell was just one of the people who helped him become the lineout caller he is today.

“In terms of calling, I didn’t necessarily learn to call off one person in particular. It would be a large mixture of Johann Muller, Paul O’Connell, Dan Tuohy, Dev Toner, Franco van der Merwe.

“To pinpoint one of them would be wrong, I’ve picked up different bits along the way. Sam Carter here at Ulster is an incredible lineout caller and I’ve picked out bits along the way from him as well.

“That has been more prevalent in me now, you can’t ever stop learning and you have to continue to adapt.”

The second-row, who is out of contract at the end of this season, will be one of the top players on the list of players Andy Farrell wants to retain as he builds towards the 2023 World Cup.

And, having experienced the disappointment of the 2015 and 2019 quarter-final exits he believes Ireland are due a break in France.

“It’s exciting, a couple of years ago we were playing Connacht at home and I was doing a press conference beforehand and I was asked about Connacht not winning at Kingspan in 46 years and my response to that was: ‘well, they’re going to win soon, then’,” he said, before explaining where he felt the last two efforts went wrong.

“Things like that don’t last forever. Probably, wrongly in my head going into the last World Cup I was thinking that. ‘Flip it, this is the year where this is going to end. If there’s a time where we’re going to get it right in a quarter-final it’s this year’.

“We were going well, 2018 we won the Grand Slam. The team was there, the players were good and we’d a good coaching set-up.

“When it came to it, Japan put all their eggs in the Irish game and we probably overlooked that one. We looked at it as a game that would be difficult and we’d win it. That was wrong.

“All of world rugby was thinking like that. Similarly, Japan had a big game at the last World Cup against South Africa. They did it. Against all odds, they turned over two big rugby nations. Fair play to them, they’re a very good team. I know that now.

“In the 2015 World Cup, we’d an incredible pool. I was thinking ‘we are flying it here, we were beating France’… Someone actually said we’d come through without any injuries and then in that France match, I don’t know how many people got taken out. Johnny (Sexton), Paulie, Pete (O'Mahony)… so many got chopped.

“That had an impact on the squad. Unfortunately, as we know in the years previous to that we’d beaten Argentina comfortably between World Cups. They’re one of those teams that can flick a switch come World Cup time and put out big performances.

“They’re a very emotional team, they get themselves going and they did that day.

“Our defence, they played so wide and attacked the edge on us, making ground for fun.

“Frustratingly, that was the end of the 2015 World Cup. The 2019 World Cup, we had it set-up – you’re going to have to play New Zealand at some stage if you want to go all the way but they were much better than us on the day.

“The deflation that losing to Japan cost us, in hindsight it probably seemed like the end of our World Cup."

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