Henshaw is likely to be parternered by former Connacht team-mate Bundee Aki in the centre for Six Nations opener

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw says they're ready for 'hit-back' against the French midfield in Saturday's Six Nations opener in Paris as they seek to avenge a 10-9 defeat at the same venue in 2016. 

Maxime Medard brushed off Henshaw before scoring a decisive late try in that game two seasons ago, where Ireland saw Johnny Sexton, Sean O'Brien and Dave Kearney go off injured. The 24-year-old says they can't afford to be bullied this weekend. 

“We will be physical in the midfield. We'll look to find space in behind them as well and constantly keep them under pressure.  

“We’ll see what they throw at us and we’ll hit them back.”

"Definitely we've looked at some images of what happened there a few years ago, and how it was a bit of an arm wrestle and then we let it slip away. We'll look to paint a different picture this week."

Henshaw and Aki were PRO-12 winners with Connacht - Image: INPHO/James Crombie

With Garry Ringrose missing this weekend through injury, there could be a Six Nations debut for Bundee Aki and Henshaw would relish being paired with his former Connacht team-mate. 

“He's had a great year so far, he's building and getting better and better. If he gets the nod, it will be great to see what the can do. He’s a great player.

“There have been different combinations - myself and Bundee (Aki) and myself and Chris (Farrell) have trained together so there's been a lot of different scenarios and everyone is putting their hand up.

“It's a really competitive squad and we’re in a really good place at the moment.”

Athlone-native Henshaw has played more regularly at outside-centre than inside-centre this season and he's been enjoying the chance to be at 13. 

"There's certainly more space to attack with, you find yourself in a bit more space off second and third phase and obviously defensively you're one of the main cogs so you need to make really important reads at 13 so there's more ownership on you. 

“It is a really exciting feeling coming in, being more of a leader...you are constantly learning every time you go out on the pitch.

“From when I started, I feel I’ve improved and gained more knowledge as I’ve progressed through my career.

“The game is constantly evolving. You have to constantly update your knowledge on the game.”

INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Ireland suffered a surprise defeat to Scotland in the opening game of last year's Six Nations and Henshaw says they're determined not to start slowly again this Saturday. 

“When we looked at our start last year, we need to do better this year. We know how hard it was last year, starting out on a loss.

“We tried to claw it back in Scotland, but left ourselves with too much to do. We are well aware of what happened and we want to hit the ground running this year. 

“That’s all that is our heads at the moment. We are all aware of what we need to do.”