Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw has praised the quality of Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls in training and feels the pressure for centre places is raising the performances of himself and Jared Payne.
Henshaw and Payne have held the centre jerseys for the first three rounds of the Six Nations and in all likelihood will keep the 12 and 13 jerseys for this weekend’s tie versus Wales.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport about the midfield partnership, Henshaw said: “I think it’s getting better and better and we’re learning more about each other’s game and feeding off each other. Training is going really well at the moment and we’re just building up that combination and everything is going well so hopefully it continues.
“The boys are training really well and the competition is driving us to improve more week in, week out. So, that only makes it more interesting I think. It drives us on as well and we’re going to keep trying to improve ourselves.
“I think the lads training against us are really sharp and running really well. Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald are driving myself and Jared on at the moment.”
The Connacht centre also heaped praise of Wales and Lions centre pairing Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, highlighting the extent of the challenge they will pose to Ireland on Saturday.
“I think they’re a really physical and strong threat. I think Roberts alone is a big ball carrier for them. And Jonathan Davies is a good ball player, and distributor as well as a tough carrier as well,” said Henshaw.
“I think in terms of their team selection we pretty much estimated what team they’d put out, so I think it’s going to be a massive test for myself and Jared Payne in the centre.
“We’re just going to prepare as best we can as they’re going to be coming down our channel a lot.”
Indeed, he feels the Welsh challenge in general will be one of fire and that the best way to meet it is like with like, saying: “I think they’re a really strong team especially at home. There’s not going to be much between us and I think it’s going to be an extremely physical game.
“I think we’re going to be fighting fire with fire. We just need to stick to our gameplan and go through what we’ve been coached.
“Line speed is key to shutting down a strong, big opposition with big ball carriers. Getting in their face early and hitting them head on is their only way of doing it. So I think we need to get up off the line and chop tackle them.”