By David Parsons
Louie Hennessey is looking forward to making it back-to-back home wins with Wales U20 in the Six Nations on Friday night – and maybe showing some Sonny Bill Williams style along the way.
Last weekend Hennessey picked up his first Championship win at the fifth attempt as he helped co-centre Harri Ackerman’s men beat Scotland 37-29 in Colwyn Bay.
That game was in Wales, but the Round 2 clash with England will also be on home soil at his club ground.
𝐈𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡: @SixNationsU20 🏴
Congratulations to Bath Rugby duo, Louie Hennessey and Ieuan Davies who have been selected to play for @WelshRugbyUnion in the opening round of the U20 Six Nations this weekend 👏
Enjoy the experience, lads 🔥 pic.twitter.com/4WNFzz5iJc
— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) January 31, 2024
Bath’s famous Recreation Ground is set to be full to its 14,500 capacity for the Anglo-Welsh showdown and Hennessey expects to feel very much at home in familiar surroundings.
Already this season he has had the thrill of playing outside Scottish skipper Finn Russell, alongside England centre Ollie Lawrence and rising Scottish midfield ace Cameron Redpath.
But he is equally happy forming a midfield double act with Wales U20 skipper Ackerman. The experienced pair played a critical role in the win in north Wales and now have England in their sights.
“We played at U18 level together and we got a good string of games there. We played last year’s Six Nations, but he sadly got an injury at the back end of the season, so he wasn’t out in South Africa for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Hennessey.
“Even so, we are quite familiar with each other, and I think we complement each other quite well. We can both carry the ball, we can both distribute, so it’s just about making the right decisions at the right time.
“I’ve enjoyed our partnership and we’re playing some decent rugby together. We’ve built an understanding of how each other play, what our roles are in the team, and how we can affect the game in different ways.
“We try to put each other and the players around us into good positions. But it is also about having the ability to do something and create some magic.”
Cais pwynt bonws i Gymru gan Harri Ackerman🔥
Wales U20 hit back in the second half! 🙌
— S4C Rygbi (@S4CRygbi) February 2, 2024
The 19-year-old, who stands 6’ 3” tall and weighs in at 104kgs, is certainly capable of producing some magic, as the Irish side discovered last season.
One of his trademark offloads out of a tackle in that game not only led to a great try for Llien Morgan, but also led to a tweet in appreciation from the great All Black conjurer, Sonny Bill Williams.
“I just loved watching Sonny Bill as a kid because of the aura he had. The other player I admired was Jamie Roberts when I was growing up in Wales,” he added.
“He came to my club (Llanishen RFC) once and that was pretty cool as a young kid. I just always looked up to him.
“Thirdly, and this is an unusual one for a Welshman, I liked Owen Farrell as well. I just love the way he carries himself.
“Anyone who plays with him speaks so highly of him, the respect he’s got within the rugby community, and the way he plays.
“I’m not so sure Sonny Bill is a fan of mine, but I can remember coming off the pitch last year and I think it was Cam Winnett who told me to check your phone. They told be about the tweet and I couldn’t quite believe it when I looked at my phone – it was all pretty cool.
“I do practice my offloads, it’s not just a natural skill. I see the space and have that sort of skill, but I do work on it in every session.
“It’s just another way of unlocking a defence. If I keep building relationships with the boys and they know that, okay I’ll keep coming through because it could be on, but at the same time I try not to force it.”
Having played through the Cardiff Schools U15 team and the Cardiff Academy, Hennessey opted to go to Hartpury College at 16.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) December 26, 2017
From there he took up a contract offer at Bath, got onto a sports performance degree course at Bath University and hasn’t looked back.
While he credits the Cardiff Academy for helping in his development over the two years he spent at the club, the offering at Bath was simply too good to turn down.
“I’m enjoying my rugby, and I’m confident. After a summer break after we returned from South Africa I came back and set a few goals,” added Hennessey.
“One of them was to make my Premiership debut and to get a couple of outings for Bath. I’ve done that, and I’m really pleased with that.
“Now it’s about bringing that experience and confidence back into the Wales group and trying to be successful at U20 level.
“There were a few eyebrows raised when I went to Bath because they weren’t in the best place. But I saw an opportunity and went for it.
“I saw the new group of players coming through, the new coaching staff, the rebuild at the club, and all the changes going on. I thought, hopefully, in a couple of years this is going to be quite a cool place to be at.
“Luckily, we’ve had quite a successful season, and I’m really loving my time there. Playing in front of a sold-out crowd against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on New Year’s Day was really special.
“I loved it and got a good 20 minutes off the bench, which was another good experience. To be able to learn from guys like Finn and all the other guys in my position – we’ve got two international centres and another in the England squad – means I’ve got a lot of role models.
“I’m never short of people to ask and to watch and learn from.”
𝐌𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐝𝐚𝐲: International action is back at The Rec! 🏴 🏴
— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) February 9, 2024
While he is with Wales U20 he is one of the go to senior players for the new caps to talk to.
And for Round 2 especially he will be working overtime and helping his teammates get used to The Recreation Ground.
“It’s an unbelievable place to play. England have a tight head and a loose head prop from Bath in their squad and I know a few of their boys from playing against them at U18s level internationally and at club level,” said Hennessey.
“England will have a big pack and will try to be quite dominant. In defence they bring a lot of line-speed and they try to force your skillset.”
Who wants to take on the famous 𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝗦𝗶𝘅 𝗞𝗶𝗰𝗸𝘀 at The Rec?
We're looking for volunteers to join us tomorrow evening for a half-time challenge during the England U20 v Wales U20 match.
Contact us at email@example.com to register your interest. pic.twitter.com/l639ovtvNr
— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) February 8, 2024