Chris Henry happy to follow Schmidt line
Chris Henry: “It’s about sticking to the game plan no matter what happens. It is all about the next play, the next five minutes, next 10 minutes.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The fear about Saturday is an awfully Irish one. The stars are not aligned. There is no axe to grind. Just cold, hard facts indicating Ireland are in better shape than England.
Never a good sign.
The squad are undoubtedly in sync. After their last three Test matches the players, as Chris Henry confirmed yesterday, have an unshakable belief in Joe Schmidt’s ability to find glitches in any opposing matrix.
“What has gone well over the last two games is we have gone into Scotland and Wales completely prepared for what Joe told us he wants. If you do what he says you are going to be in the mix for winning the game.”
Poor, poor Scotland were devoured in competent fashion before Wales got sliced at the ankle then enveloped. Met behind the gain-line and chopped down, this prompted Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray to adopt a territorial approach that created the perfect setting to maul.
So, on Saturday at Twickenham, Ireland will adopt a similar approach to the one which suffocated Wales. Or we will see Schmidt’s next brainwave.
Or, in all likelihood, a mesh of both. Either way, the players will follow the plan.
“We know the performance against Wales is not going to be enough,” said Henry, a brand ambassador for Kinetica. “So, have we changed the world for this week? No. Do we know of some bits and bobs that need to be changed? Yes.
“Joe hasn’t been trying to reinvent anything too much. We are sticking to things that have been working for us and pushing it forward that way.”
Henry enters a new domain on Saturday. And yet he fought on this battlefield as recently as April and there’s a chance, always a chance, the same punishment will be meted out.
Ulster got last season’s Heineken Cup quarter-final horribly wrong. They went about playing rugby against Saracens at Twickenham. They thundered down dark alleys and were mugged, squeezed and spat out.
“To be honest I just don’t think we were ready for a quarter-final against a team like that in somewhere like Twickenham. We weren’t the team we are this year. Saracens were playing well, grinding out wins and probably just one season too far for us.
‘A bit naive’
“We were probably a bit naive in our game plan as well. Tried to play too much rugby and they just kept pinning us back and our scrum and lineout didn’t function.
“My first Twickenham experience wasn’t great but I am quite good at putting those bad games behind me. You can’t get caught up in it. I hope my second Twickenham experience will be a bit different.”
The fear remains a very Irish one. What if the Schmidt plan goes badly wrong? What if the rolling maul is stalled or England climb into an early lead and Swing Low reverberates around the old coliseum?
So many what ifs at Twickenham.
“There are going to be times when we’ll want to slow it up and times when we will keep the tempo high. Our backs are dangerous, they score some good tries, and Johnny has them going well.
“We don’t want to get into an arm wrestle at times but there are going to be times when we want to slow it up.”
For certain they will obey their master.
“It’s about sticking to the game plan no matter what happens. It is all about the next play, the next five minutes, next 10 minutes. Keep the intensity high because whenever we keep a high tempo our fitness is very good and we work hard for each other.”
So, unnerving and all as it is, just believe.