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Henshaw waiting for his chance as Aki and Ringrose tear up World Cup

By PA
Garry Ringrose of Ireland shakes hands with Robbie Henshaw as he comes on as a head injury assessment replacement during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on September 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw accepts he may have to remain patient for opportunities at his third Rugby World Cup due to the “flying” form of positional rivals Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose.

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The experienced 30-year-old has been a Test regular for a decade but his game time in France has so far been restricted to two cameos.

Leinster player Henshaw, who has 67 international caps, admits the peripheral role feels unfamiliar and is fighting to regain a starting spot.

He believes strength in depth is vital to his country’s aspirations in the tournament and praised the “outstanding” displays of Aki, who has already registered four tries, and Ringrose.

“He’s been brilliant, his body’s in great shape,” Henshaw said of the in-form Aki.

“He’s flying fit and he’s had a great pre-season, as has Garry. The lads are flying it, their performances have been consistent and rock solid and Bundee’s been flying in terms of getting tries on the board.

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“He’s been letting us know that he’s near the top of the try scorers list, which we’ve been having a laugh about.

“They’ve been outstanding and for me it’s just whenever I get a chance to come in to make sure I put my best foot forward.”

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Henshaw was a late withdrawal from Ireland’s bench for the opening win against Romania as a precaution.

He then bolstered his side as a replacement in the subsequent success over Tonga before twice coming on against South Africa, initially in the first half while Ringrose underwent a head injury assessment.

“You start the week with the mindset of being as competitive as you can and making sure when we know the team that they’re prepared the best they can be,” Henshaw said of team selection.

“That’s definitely a role of the guys who are not in that starting 15, making sure we prepare the lads.

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“But then on the flip side, whenever you get your chance, it’s being ready.

“Coming off the bench definitely isn’t something I’ve been used to for a while but it’s about making sure you give it your all when you get on and you positively impact the game.”

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Ireland have been relatively injury free during the current campaign.

Head coach Andy Farrell is in the unusual position of having his three leading midfield options available, in addition to Stuart McCloskey and versatile backs Keith Earls and Jimmy O’Brien.

Two-time British and Irish Lion Henshaw acknowledges that has not often been the case in recent times.

“It’s a good point, there’s always in the past – Six Nations, Novembers – been one of us in or out due to injury or whatever,” he said.

“Hopefully we can keep us all fit.

“But the quality we have, we’ve great strength in depth in those positions, even the likes of Earlsy being able to come in at 13 and Jimmy.

“The depth we have here is key for playing in a World Cup because anything can happen.”

Ireland lead Pool B thanks to their 100 per cent record but are still sweating on a quarter-final place ahead of next weekend’s crunch Paris showdown with rivals Scotland.

“Every time we play Scotland we know they’re going to come for us,” said Henshaw.

“Now we can see what it means to them and what they want to chase and what we want to chase in terms of getting those four wins.

“They’re going to come and have a go like they always do through (fly-half) Finn Russell and getting the ball to the width.

“They’ll have a plan and we’ll need to make sure we’re rock solid and we attack it.”

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