Iain Henderson believes the wealth of leadership quality among Ireland’s squad can help the 2018 Grand Slam winners kick-start their 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign against Italy in Round 3.
Andy Farrell’s charges head to Rome following hard-fought defeats in their two opening encounters of this year’s Championship, having gone down 21-16 away to Wales before being edged out 15-13 at home to France.
While that Dublin clash with Les Bleus ultimately ended in disappointment for Ireland, it represented a moment of pride for Ulster lock Henderson who was bestowed with the honour of being named his country’s 108th captain in the absence of Johnny Sexton, James Ryan and Peter O’Mahony.
And while the 29-year-old would jump at the chance to lead from the front again if called upon, he is buoyed by the attitude and dedication demonstrated by the whole 36-man squad, who reassembled on Monday ahead of their trip to the Italian capital.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted but I absolutely loved it,” said Henderson, who is line to win his 61st Test cap against the Azzurri. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity ever arose but there are so many leaders throughout this team.
“As a captain it gives you so much confidence that all the guys are doing their work and getting across it. You don’t necessarily feel like you’re worried about anyone or that the older players in the group have to baby anyone.
“James [Ryan] is an incredible captain, Peter [O’Mahony] is an incredible captain, Johnny [Sexton] and Ringer [Garry Ringrose] are both very, very good captains and there’s no part of me that would be upset if, next week, anyone stepped in and I was playing.”
Regardless of who is picked to skipper the side Henderson insists each member of Farrell’s squad shares the common goal of yielding victory in the Stadio Olimpico by any means necessary.
With two losing bonus points to their name so far, a win at the third attempt is vital to stay in touch with France and Wales at the top of the ranks, as well as England and Scotland who currently sit above Ireland in the table.
Henderson added: “We have to win, be it by three points, by ten points – it doesn’t matter. Our backs are up against the wall and we have to go in with a mindset of winning this game.
“Similarly, we can’t be afraid of losing. We have to be able to go out there and put on a performance that we will be happy with and proud of and hopefully if we do that, we’ll have come out on the right side of the result.”