Andrew Henderson: Ex-Scotland hooker ‘honoured’ by Combined Nations All-Stars coaching role for England clash

Andrew Henderson: Ex-Scotland hooker ‘honoured’ by Combined Nations All-Stars coaching role for England clash

Andrew Henderson cannot wait to be part of the Combined Nations coaching staff to face England

Andrew Henderson may be talking slightly tongue-in-cheek when he refers to himself as a “proud Scotsman”, but there can be no doubting his passion for international rugby league.

Although he was born in Torquay and grew up on the Central Coast in Australia, the hooker – along with brothers Ian and Kevin – utilised his Scottish ancestry to play for the Bravehearts and won 17 caps, including being part of the squad for both the 2008 and 2013 Rugby League World Cups.

Having moved into coaching after hanging up his boots six years ago, Henderson will be back on the international stage next month as part of Tim Sheens’ coaching staff for the Combined Nations All-Stars team to take on England on June 25, live on Sky Sports, and the 41-year-old could not be prouder to be part of it.

“It’s a fantastic honour,” Henderson said. “We’ve brought some traditional roots back which allows us to open our playing pool so it’s more players being involved.

“Also, it provides more opportunity to those guys to play in a fully-fledged international against England.

“We’ve seen some fantastic players over the years grace the Combined Nations team and we’re hopefully going to unearth some new talent to come into the team.”

Henderson speaks passionately about the history of the Combined Nations squad, which can trace its roots back to the first-ever rugby league international in 1904 which saw an Other Nationalities team beat England 9-3 in Wigan.

Henderson played for Scotland in two World Cups

All-time greats such as Brian Bevan, Billy Boston and Jim Sullivan all represented the team down the years before it went into abeyance in the 1970s, being revived between 2011 and 2013 as the Exiles team comprised of Super League-based Southern Hemisphere players.

The Combined Nations All-Stars is, however, more akin to the original Other Nationalities concept in that players from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France will be eligible for selection along with the Australians, New Zealanders and Pacific Islanders playing in Super League.

Henderson knows from personal experience with Scotland how limited opportunities at international level can be for players involved with some of those nations outside of World Cup cycles.

And while he recognises the clash at the Halliwell Jones Stadium is mostly about helping prepare England for this year’s global gathering on these shores, the assistant coach is optimistic it will prove beneficial for everyone involved with the All-Stars too.

It’s a unique opportunity and a challenge for staff and players, but it’s an incredible one.

Combined Nations All-Stars coach Andrew Henderson

“We all know the international opportunities are limited in terms of games played on the international stage and let’s not kid ourselves, this game is all about England,” Henderson said.

“We understand that, but we’re not there to turn up and have a run-around, we’re there to compete and really challenge England.

“It’s a unique opportunity and a challenge for staff and players, but it’s an incredible one. Some may never have been on the international arena before, so this would be their first taste of it.

“Others who have been with different nations can bring that experience to the party, and I just think there are so many positives to the party.”

Tim Sheens won the 2013 World Cup as Australia head coach

On a personal level, Henderson is relishing the prospect of working with and learning from Combined Nations head coach Sheens, who as well as guiding Australia to World Cup glory in 2013 has an extensive coaching CV of experience in the NRL, Super League and State of Origin.

It comes at a time when Henderson is looking to what comes next as his time as assistant coach at Warrington Wolves will come to an end when head coach Steve Price leaves his role at the end of the 2021 season.

The former Barrow Raiders captain has already won praise for his work on the coaching side at two of his other previous clubs, having started with the youth set-up while still playing for Sheffield Eagles and then moving up from assistant coach to head coach at London Broncos, and makes no secret of his ambition to become a Super League head coach.

“When I look at my coaching pathway and the journey I’ve been on, I’ve spent time in the youth development set-up at Sheffield for four years, then head coach in the Championship at London, and four years as an assistant at Warrington,” Henderson said.

Henderson has been part of Steve Price’s backroom team at Warrington

“Now I’m getting a taste of the international arena and it’s another step within that coaching progression and journey which will ultimately make me a Super League head coach in the future.

“I’ve very, very grateful for the opportunity the people in charge have given me this chance and I’m really excited to be working with Tim, and more importantly the group of players we end up recruiting for this team.

“Obviously I want to pass some of my experience and knowledge onto these guys, and also draw from them too because we’ve got some great players who will be on show who have played for some fantastic coaches and teams.”

Source: skysports.com

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