Iain Henderson believes that Ireland’s stunning victory over World Cup holders New Zealand has given the reigning Six Nations champions “reassurance.”
Ireland backed up their win against the All Blacks in Chicago two years ago by beating them on home soil for the first time ever as wing Jacob Stockdale’s try underpinned a 16-9 Aviva Stadium success.
And it underlined Ireland’s status as major World Cup contenders in Japan next year, with the win being accompanied by a stirring defensive effort that kept New Zealand without a try.
“Having never beaten them in Dublin, it was in the back of our minds,” said Ulster lock Henderson, who went on as a second half replacement.
“To overcome that was the most satisfying thing in my mind.
“People might say ‘okay, they won in Chicago, it was a one-off, almost’. But to be able to back it up again shows that we are still learning, still getting better and learning from past performances.
“Being able to beat New Zealand again gives us reassurance that we are continuing to better ourselves.
“Internally, we know the quality of players we’ve got, we know the quality of training and quality of coaches we have, and everything that is done around us is done to the highest standard possible.
“Everyone’s trying to be the best, everyone’s striving to meet expectations. A win like that at the weekend is a bit of a pay-day, giving everyone a bit of thanks for all the effort that has been put in.”
Henderson also paid tribute to Ireland’s defence coach Andy Farrell, whose masterful strategy played a huge role in their triumph.
“I think Andy has a really good defensive strategy in place, and I think that’s something that I am sure he will be very proud of, his achievement at the weekend,” Henderson added.
“We will take great confidence from that and look forward to being challenged again by big teams of a similar standard.
“I think that’s the only time you do get tested is when you are up against one of your big Test matches when you have the quality of opposition trying to do that to you.
“I think he (Farrell) will be very pleased with how the weekend went, and he will be pleased with all the lads who put in the hard work to make his good work come to fruition.
“I think that’s a testament to how good a coach he is and how well he gets all the boys singing off the same hymn sheet.”
Leinster, meanwhile, say that Ireland flanker Dan Leavy, who missed the New Zealand game, will not be available for selection next weekend (Ireland play the United States in Dublin) as he undergoes rehabilitation for a neck strain.
Leinster also said that back-row forward Sean O’Brien has undergone surgery on his broken arm and will be sidelined for eight-12 weeks, and centre Robbie Henshaw faces four to six weeks out due to a hamstring strain.