ROBBIE Henshaw knows that if Ireland are not to suffer the same fate as they did twice against England last year, then they are going to have to hit the ground running.
Poor starts in the 57-15 pre World Cup loss at Twickenham in August and the 32-20 loss in the Aviva this time last year cost Ireland dearly.
Confidence was in a different place to the previous year when Ireland claimed the Triple Crown and Grand Slam at Twickenham and Henshaw reckons that the confidence levels are back close to where they were in 2018.
Two wins on the bounce and two improved performances game on game have meant that Ireland go into Sunday’s clash in a confident place.
“It is hard to pinpoint on one thing that went wrong. Probably one key thing was our start in the game.
“We probably let them get a quick start which gave them momentum so looking at one thing could have been... where we allowed them to start quick and they got the first score. Again, it is hard to pinpoint on one certain thing that went wrong.”
Training has been geared at upping things a level from the win over Wales this week and the talk ahead of the England game has also gone up a notch says the Leinster centre but still he goes back to the idea that a good start is going to play a pivotal role if Ireland are to overcome the auld enemy.
“It is about building week on week, we have had two good weeks in terms of two good results against Scotland and Wales and it is about building again this week and trying to up the ante and bring it to another level.
“So it is taking it to the next level and trying to pull out the best result we can on the weekend. The fast start again is huge. You see it in a lot of games nowadays, that the team that does start well seems to have the upper hand.
“If you find yourself in that position where the other team starts well you have to reset and make sure you have that kinda calmness and don’t be too panicked and make sure you reset and go again.
“It is down to the work you do in the week as well, in training, what you put yourself through and how well you are doing your work on and off the pitch.
“It all builds up to how you put it down on the weekend. I think the preparation is key to that.”
Henshaw will start this week again in the centre even though he had started his days with Connacht as a full back.
Connacht’s coach at the time Pat Lam wanted Tiernan O’Halloran on the pitch as an extra attacking option and the decision was made to move Henshaw into the centre alongside Bundee Aki.
“I was just playing where I was told to play,” says Henshaw of the move to a new position.
“I think Tiernan O’Halloran was playing really well anyway, so it was about probably getting the best we had on the pitch.
“I was kind of mixed and matched between 15 and 13 for most of that season anyway.
“I think Tiernan was on fire that season so we needed him there, probably more so at full-back than on the wing.”
During his remaining time with Connacht, before his move to Leinster, Henshaw and Aki found many ways to communicate something that has stood the test of time.
Given the amount of injuries Ireland have suffered in that line of the pitch, it is important that all centres, starting and bench know exactly what to expect during the game and what their job is if they are required.
“When your heart rate is up to 180 or whatever it is in the game, and you’re out of breath, it’s hard to scream so it’s a bit of being able to adapt by sight and by your action that you’ve trained on the field.
“We’ve just been building and take up where you left off I suppose.
“The four centres come in and we all get together and we all make sure that we’re working together as a mini unit and you make sure you do the work during the week and talking through scenarios and talking through situations that might arise on the weekend.
“So, again, all the work is done on the pitch and off the pitch but it’s key that the connection is there between everyone in the centre so we know what we’re doing and we know that in the past there’s been a lot of injuries in this shirt that if someone goes down then someone can come in and we know what we’re about.”
Henshaw was one of those injuries and missed the 2018 season because of a shoulder injury.
That is just part of the game as another of Ireland’s centres, Garry Ringrose, is currently finding out.
“Everyone wants to be playing and injury is the downside to the sport and that’s just how it is.
“You have to roll with the punches but it’s really unfortunate not to have Garry here because he such a world class player but, yeah, everyone wants to stay fit.”