Henshaw enjoying healthy distractions before World Cup kick off

Meeting Christy Moore, Henry Shefflin and Ruby Walsh benefitted squad, says Ireland centre

An ordinary man, nothing special nothing grand. Christy Moore rides to the rescue yet again.

If a word of warning comes from Paul O’Connell the Ireland camp should pay heed. It seems that they already have. Speaking to Second Captains at the Electric Picnic, O’Connell contrasted the lack of healthy distractions at the 2007 World Cup with the beer-sipping South African experience on the almost successful Lions tour two years later.

"Adam Jones – you know the Wales prop? – said to me: 'I've been off drink for a year trying to get picked on this tour and since we've been on the tour I haven't been off drink' and this is a Lions tour now!" said O'Connell. "Warren Gatland, Ian McGeechan and Rob Howley giving out to people if we didn't go out after games . . . just to bring people together and have a bit of fun."

The theory to unite enemies in a very short space of time worked. Lore tells us Ireland players have compartmentalised provincial enmities since that moment in 2009 when Rob Kearney spoke in the Enfield mindfields but the point holds, as O’Connell explained: “At the World Cup in 2007 we had to be so professional that we felt we needed a hotel away from the environment. We had a gym that we put into one of the conference rooms. We never got on a bus and drove through the city to have a bit of fun in a public gym.

‘Very serious’

“It was just very, very serious. We got it wrong and we overtrained as well.”

Joe Schmidt’s Ireland camp is meant to be very, very serious.

"We had Christy Moore in last night," said Robbie Henshaw, half musician, half professional rugby player. "It was good craic, he was slagging off a few of the lads, but it was good craic even the songs he was singing. Lads who never sing were singing along with him. That eases the pressure valve a little, helps us to switch off."

Has Christy played the Ireland team room in Carton House more than Willie Clancy week?

“He has actually, he’s up on gig 13 or 14.”

Did the former Planxty bard tear the house down?

“He did, he was class.”

Moore was a surprise visitor so Henshaw wasn’t prepared to join him on stage.

“No, but four years ago I did. He played bodhrán and I played a couple of tunes on the box. It was a surprise last night so I didn’t go up.

“Tadhg Furlong actually was good, surprised us all by knowing the words.”

Eyes closed? “Yeah, eyes closed, leaning back in the chair.”

Henshaw, who can play accordion, fiddle, guitar and piano, intends to source some instruments in Tokyo but he did confirm a banjo and two guitars will be stored in the Irish luggage next Wednesday.

Perhaps the Irish management and Andy Farrell as part of the England ticket in 2015 have learned the lesson of overexposing these testosterone-fuelled athletes to rugby intel.

"We had Henry Shefflin in and Ruby Walsh," Henshaw revealed. "They were class. Kellie Harrington as well. She was class. Just to get their side of dealing with pressure and dealing with big games. They came around to different tables so we had a one-on-one chats, like this."

Take notice

So much as a glance at Shefflin’s career should make any member of the squad – even those who qualified on residency – sit up and take notice. The uninitiated can YouTube the 2012 All-Ireland final.

“We had him in before. He just talks about the emotion the boys put in the shirt and what they would do for each other to win those All-Irelands. Literally the pride they had in the jersey. Simple message that showed how Kilkenny play. Just interesting to get different opinions, different voices into camp.”

And to remember that Japan 2019 is the time of their lives.

“Yeah, it is important that you get away from the intense environment that is here. We’ll have our days off [in Japan] but it’s going to be pretty intense I’d imagine. The beauty about the pre-season was that we moved around to different camps and that definitely helped and we had a week and a half out in Portugal as well, which was class.

“We didn’t do that in the last World Cup but there’s been a few days of golf and stuff like that. So there’s definitely been a bit of chill-out time.”

Henshaw’s season begins in the 13 jersey on Saturday against Wales and incumbent Lions centre Jonathan Davies.

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