Scottish second-row Cameron Henderson has taken another big step in his professional career this week after signing a new long-term deal with Leicester Tigers. The 23-year-old has represented both of Scotland’s U18 and U20 sides, but with his future now secured at the English Premiership’s most successful club, could a full first-team cap soon be on the cards?
Could a Scotland cap be calling Cameron Henderson?
Learning from the Best
Cameron Henderson has previously been a part of some of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squads, firstly for the summer internationals in 2021 and more recently as part of the 40-man camp for this year’s Six Nations Championship. While opinions on Townsend are often divided among Scotland fans, one undeniable positive he has brought to Murrayfield since he took over in May 2017 is his inclusion of young players in his squads.
The first player to receive a debut for Scotland under Townsend was centre Nick Grigg in June 2017 and since then, a further 55 men have had their own chance to pull on the blue jersey for the very first time. More often than not, however, the players are included in training camps and international tours before receiving their first caps to bleed them into the team. By doing this, they have the opportunity to get up to speed with international rugby, get a feel for what it is like in camp and, most importantly, learn from some of the very best in the game.
Henderson has been no exception. He was one of the five lock forwards in the 40-man squad for the 2023 Six Nations, which otherwise included Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, and both Richie and Jonny Gray. Between the four of them, they have collectively won 237 caps for Scotland. Exeter Chiefs’ Jonny Gray has 77 of his own, making him the second-highest cap earner in the team behind centurion Stuart Hogg. This means that in the second row alone, there is a wealth of experience and talent for Cameron Henderson to feed off of.
All aspects of his game have the potential to significantly improve when surrounded by the current strength that Scotland possesses. His defensive technique and work rate with the likes of Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson. Ability over the ball with Jamie Ritchie. Even his offensive positioning and awareness to spot a gap when play is dictated by one of the world’s best – Finn Russell. Every day that an uncapped player spends as part of the Scotland team brings new opportunities for growth.
Luckily for Cameron Henderson, it is not only when he is in Scotland camp that there is elite-level talent everywhere he looks. Now he has committed his future to the Tigers, Henderson will spend his weeks’ training with and learning from the likes of Dan Cole, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Reffell, and Jasper Wiese. There has been a strong blend of youthfulness and experience at Welford Road in recent seasons, which not only adds to the harmony of the group but also allows players in every position to push themselves to either keep their spot in the team or break through into it.
George Martin, Jack Van Poortvliet, and Freddie Steward are all examples of young players that are playing at the highest level for both club and country that Cameron Henderson can strive to follow in the footsteps of. Additionally, he also has Matt Scott (40 caps for Scotland) as someone to lean on at Tigers, as well as a prop forward Will Herd, who, like Henderson, will be itching to represent the thistle as soon as possible.
At the top of the game
Not only is Cameron Henderson blessed with the people he gets to play with week in and week out, but he is also privileged to be playing his rugby at the very top of the game. Following this year’s third-placed finish in the Six Nations, Scotland sits 5th in the World Rugby Rankings – their joint highest place ever alongside 2018. Similarly, Leicester currently sits third in the Gallagher Premiership, is the reigning league champions, and holds the record for the most top-flight titles with 11.
Although he has played at a good level before, having won the Scottish School’s Cup with Strathallan in 2018 and representing Stirling County in the Scottish Premiership, Henderson now plays his domestic rugby on the highest stage.
🔒 𝗟𝗢𝗖𝗞𝗘𝗗 𝗜𝗡
Excited to announce that the towering Tiger Cameron Henderson has agreed to a new deal with the club and is locked in at Leicester long-term! #TigersFamily 🐯
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) March 28, 2023
He has made 32 appearances for the Tigers since making his debut against Bath in August 2020 and has scored six tries. This season, Leicester is in the hunt for back-to-back Premiership titles for the first time since 08-09/09-10 and is still a part of this year’s Heineken Cup. When it comes to European club rugby, Leicester is almost always challenging at the top, meaning their players are challenging, and competing, against the world’s very best on a regular basis. For someone like Cameron Henderson, at just 23, that experience, as well as the physical and mental tests that come with it, are invaluable.
What he can bring
Cameron Henderson is a strong ball carrier, often offering himself as a runner off of 10 and attacking the ball at pace to always try and break that gain line. At 6ft 7 and weighing in at almost 120kg, the Hong Kong-born Tiger is hard to stop when he gets going and is a highly useful asset when it comes to set pieces.
With good dexterity, Henderson is best with the ball in hand and works hard to free his arms to get the offload away to supporting runners. His work rate on the floor is also strong for such a big player, helping Leicester play a fast and expansive game – something that can be so effective in the Gallagher Premiership.
Above all, perhaps, is his resilience and determination to play. In October 2021, in a league game against Worcester Warriors, Henderson ruptured his ACL and tore his meniscus. Through hard work and sheer grit, however, he returned seven months later to help the Tigers to a 27-5 win over Newcastle Falcons away from home. Today, he remains a useful asset for interim coach Richard Wigglesworth’s side.
With so much to draw from, as well as a long career ahead of him, Cameron Henderson’s future as a rugby player at the highest level of the game remains bright. Should he continue on the path he is on, avoid injury, and develop his game further every week, we could very soon see him earn that first Scotland cap.
Photo Credit: Leicester Tigers Facebook Page on March 28, 2023.