League: Henderson's buzzing over taking on NZ

By Michael Brown, in Leeds

Ex-Warrior says he's excited to see how he and Scotland team fare against Kiwis

Ian Henderson.
Ian Henderson.

Scotland and former Warriors hooker Ian Henderson knows what it's like to confront challenging situations - he survived returning to play in Castleford after roundly insulting the people who live there - so is only excited about the prospect of taking on the Kiwis on Saturday morning (NZT).

Henderson famously described Castleford, a former mining town in west Yorkshire, as "the worst place" he had lived and said the people there had rotten teeth, spent too much time drinking and needed a bath.

He got his comeuppance when he returned to play there with Catalans in 2011.

"It was very hostile," he said. "I copped it from most of the crowd... a lot of chants, not pretty chants. After the game I got peppered going to the bus. A few people tried to grab me and were giving me the fingers.

"I expected all that, and deservedly so ... I should have just reported on the weather and not the people and they had a right to give me some stick back.

Every year it gets less and less."

Warriors fans still remember the 30-year-old for the three seasons he played at Mt Smart Stadium between 2008-10 before moving to France with Catalans.

He was a self-confessed grub (for his playing style, not his living habits) with his competitive style and says little has changed in that respect.

He was one of the Warriors' best buys when they signed him from Bradford and on Saturday morning will face former teammates Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Elijah Taylor and Kevin Locke, not to mention former coach Ivan Cleary who is Kiwis assistant.

"I'm really excited to play them," he said. "They are such a good team. Not only do I want to play against mates, but I want to challenge myself and see how I fare against one of the best teams in the world.

"I have great memories of my times in New Zealand."

Few expected Scotland to get this far, with most predicting Tonga to emerge from Group C, but the Bravehearts were undefeated in pool play with two wins (they beat Tonga 26-24 and the US 22-8) and a draw (Italy 30-30).

They aren't expected to trouble the Kiwis but have a good spine in Henderson, halves Peter Wallace and Danny Brough and fullback Matt Russell, who leads the tournament for tackle busts with 22 and is joint second top tryscorer with four. They also have tremendous spirit, captured in a YouTube video of them celebrating when Tonga beat Italy to send Scotland into the quarter-finals.

"I believe we can win," said Henderson, whose father is Scottish and brother Andy is also in the team. "The squad believes we can win."

The Kiwis will name their 19-man squad for the match this morning, with Kevin Locke likely to be given a chance to claim the fullback spot in place of Josh Hoffman, who has a shoulder injury, but with coach Stephen Kearney still to decide on his top prop rotation.

Kiwis picks

Likely Kiwis squad to play Scotland at Headingley, Leeds, on Saturday (9am NZT): Jesse Bromwich, Kieran Foran, Bryson Goodwin, Shaun Johnson, Sam Kasiano, Kevin Locke, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Sam Moa, Jason Nightingale, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Frank Pritchard, Elijah Taylor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dean Whare, Sonny Bill Williams.

- APNZ

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