Robbie Henshaw returned to playing at the RDS on Saturday night and demonstrated no ill effects following his wrist surgery. The good news is that he will soon be back playing rugby too.
Henshaw lined out with his family on box accordion to entertain the crowds in the Leinster supporters’ club shed after the province’s 38-14 victory over Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen explained: “He is pretty close Robbie, now. In terms of what Ireland do with him, [whether to] bring him back into camp or does he play with us [has yet to be decided]? He has a big performance on next door,” the latter a refence to his music gig.
Henshaw’s surgery meant that he was left out of Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad, currently in Portugal preparing for next Saturday’s opening Six Nations Championship match against Wales at the Principality Stadium and given that he has not played since November it’s unlikely that he would be considered for the French game at the Aviva Stadium a week later.
Leinster’s next game is against the Dragons at the RDS on Saturday, February 18th, a week before Ireland face Italy in Rome, and this seems like the most obvious game for Henshaw to return to competitive action.
Cullen also confirmed that Charlie Ngatai (hamstring), Jason Jenkins (hamstring) and Ciarán Frawley (knee) will be available sooner rather than later. “Yes, they will feature. You have named four or five guys there. Some of them will be back for the Dragons game in a couple of weeks’ time. They all should be back by Edinburgh, I hope.”
Ireland Women’s Sevens finish fourth in Sydney
Aiden McNulty’s Ireland Women’s team had to settle for fourth place after they went down narrowly 12-5 to the USA in the Sevens World Series leg in Sydney. The team had won two of their three pool matches to qualify for a quarter-final where they beat Fiji 26-12.
They suffered a heavy 41-0 defeat to the eventual champions New Zealand in the semi-finals, but despite having lost three of four games against the Americans this season, they had all been one-score contests and so it proved again.
Ireland, without the injured Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, will have been disappointed as despite having dominated possession they conceded two soft tries, before Kathy Baker’s second-half effort gave them a chance, ultimately unsuccessful, to chase a draw.
In the overall standings, Ireland are still in a good position to gain automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics granted to the top four countries at season’s end. McNulty’s squad lie fifth on the same points (62) as the French, who qualify for Paris by right as hosts so don’t count in the standings in that regard, and 16 points clear of Fiji and Britain with three tournaments remaining – Vancouver, Hong Kong and Toulouse.
James Topping’s Ireland men’s squad finished sixth for the second tournament in succession, having done so last week in Hamilton, New Zealand. The Irish won two of their pool matches before losing to Samoa who would prove their nemesis again later in the tournament.
Ireland lost 26-12 in the quarter-final to South Africa, beat Britain to contest the fifth-place final where they once again lost to Samoa. They lie ninth overall with six tournaments remaining. They’ll saw goodbye to Terry Kennedy, the Sevens world player of the Year, who stepped in to play in Hamilton and Sydney but will remain in Australia to resume his year’s sabbatical.
Combined Provinces women’s team off to winning start
Ireland’s newly minted Combined Provinces women’s team kicked off their Celtic Challenge campaign with a one point, 27-26, win over a Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Development XV at the Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday morning.
The visitors led 22-7 at half-time with Leinster and Wicklow wing Emma Roberts registering a brace of tries. Her provincial team-mates, Railway Union scrumhalf Ailsa Hughes and Blackrock College hooker Emma Hooban also crossed the home side’s line.
The Welsh team produced a spirited second-half comeback, clawing their way back to just 22-19 behind before another of the Leinster contingent, Old Belvedere’s Aoife Dalton, grabbed the match-winning try. The Combined Provinces team is back in action next Saturday at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast where they will take on Scotland’s representatives, the Thistles.
[ Jack Carty becomes Connacht’s all-time top points scorer as Lions tamed at Sportsground ]
Hat tip to Connacht outhalf and captain Jack Carty, whose 13 points against the Lions saw him take over the mantle of the province’s all-time highest points’ scorer. The previous record holder Eric Elwood, Connacht’s academy manager, was on hand to watch him do it.
“The guys are going to go on a little bit of a break, freshen up, and come back in and look forward to a week of training followed by three away games in a row which will be really tough.” Ulster head coach Dan McFarland underlines what lies ahead for the team after a good win against the Stormers.