While concerns abound over results and performances, one of the areas Ireland can draw positives from in the Guinness Six Nations campaign is the set-piece improvement.

The line-out in particular has been a source of strength for Andy Farrell's side since Paul O'Connell was brought into the set-up ahead of the tournament as forwards coach.

But according to Ireland second row Iain Henderson, the former Munster and Ireland captain's influence hasn't been built on revolutionising the way the Irish side approaches the line-out.

"Paulie hasn't come in and tried to reinvent anything," he said.

"He hasn't tried to take everything away that we had learned before. What he has done is let us continue to work what we were doing and adding small tweaks to make us better and better session by session; adding bits of detail that we might be missing, ensuring that we are getting as consistent a line-out as possible."

On the scrum, Henderson added that John Fogarty, like O'Connell, is "making it feel not just about the front row but about the eight players that are in the scrum."

Henderson leading out Ulster in the Pro14 final last year

The 29-year-old was speaking shortly after confirmation of a contract extension with Ulster that will take him to the summer of 2023.

"It's been a long process and delighted to get to end of it and looking forward to have that put to bed now," the Ulster captain admitted, adding that the initial process had been a little bit "more stressful" due to the delays brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to negotiations starting later than usual. 

With his contract projected to expire at the end of July 2023, shortly before that year's Rugby World Cup, Henderson emphasised that he is keen on extending that deal when the time comes to ensure that he features at the tournament.

Henderson will be in contention to feature against Italy on Saturday as Ireland aim to clinch a first Six Nations win of the campaign. It won't be as captain on this occasion, although he relished the opportunity to fill that role last time out against France for the first time at international level.

"I'd love to do it again," he enthused.

"I really enjoyed it. Obviously the result wasn't what we had wanted but I really enjoyed the build-up to it and during the game.

"Obviously there is a pecking order of leaders ahead of me. This team has leaders all the way through it and that's probably one thing that made it feel more seamless for me and made it more easy for me to step into that role." 

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