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Robbie Henshaw backed to slot straight back into Ireland scene by Andy Farrell
The 28-year-old has recovered from a foot injury.
Andy Farrell has backed “world-class” Robbie Henshaw to seamlessly slot back into Ireland’s team for Sunday’s autumn finale against Argentina in Dublin.
Leinster centre Henshaw has not played a minute of rugby since being ever-present in the British and Irish Lions’ series defeat to South Africa in the summer after suffering a foot injury in pre-season.
The 28-year-old is one of four changes to Farrell’s starting XV following last weekend’s momentous win over New Zealand, with Conor Murray and Joey Carbery selected as the half-back pairing and Robert Baloucoune named on the right flank.
Henshaw will start alongside provincial team-mate Garry Ringrose in midfield, with fellow Lion Bundee Aki given a weekend off due to a couple of knocks.
“In my experience, world-class players they generally can come back in without much game time and they will just be themselves,” said Farrell.
“Robbie, in my opinion, is exactly that.
“He’s been in and around camp over the last few weeks. He’s been back fully training now for 10 days.
“He’s looked great in training today, he’s going to add to the performance, I’m sure.”
Ireland are seeking to finish 2021 in style by securing an eighth consecutive victory on the back of the statement 29-20 success over the All Blacks.
With captain Johnny Sexton suffering knee and ankle injuries against the Kiwis and scrum-half Jamison Gisbon-Park joining him in the treatment room, Munster team-mates Murray and Carbery will begin a Test match together for only the second time.
Scrum-half Murray – who, like Henshaw, toured with Warren Gatland’s Lions – has not started for Ireland since the Six Nations win over England in March and been forced to remain patient during the past fortnight.
Farrell praised the attitude of the 32-year-old and believes there is “competition all over Ireland” for the number nine role.
“Honestly, Conor has been great,” said Farrell.
“He has been fantastic in camp. He has just got on with his business in a very professional manner and been very supportive of Jamison, helping the team push forward.
“He gets a chance to play and like everyone taking to the field, they’re all looking to put their best foot forward.
“It isn’t just those two. I’m sure Craig (Casey) has something to say about that as well and Caolin Blade; Luke McGrath has come back in as well, so we’ve got great competition all over Ireland in that position.”
Meanwhile, Ulster wing Baloucoune has been given another opportunity to impress, preferred to Andrew Conway in the only unenforced change.
The 24-year-old made a try-scoring debut against the United States in July.
“He’s a quiet type of chap and gets about his business in that type of way,” said Farrell.
“But the potential is there for all to see. I love the way that he’s unorthodox in his play. He’s obviously very quick and hopefully we can get him into a bit of space.
“He has a natural feel for the game and very underestimated as far as decision-making and reads in defence.
“He’s very good on the high ball. So hopefully we can get some front-foot ball and give him some room.”
Farrell has kept faith with the forward pack which began against New Zealand, with lock James Ryan standing in as skipper in Sexton’s absence.
Inexperienced quartet Dan Sheehan, Tom O’Toole, Craig Casey and Harry Byrne, who have won just six caps combined, have been included among the replacements, joining Cian Healy, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls.