Robbie Henshaw: ‘I think Leinster can go all the way’

After draw with Castres, Henshaw is ready for home quarter-final with his new team

Robbie Henshaw scores his second try for Leinster in Friday’s European Champions Cup match at the Stade Pierre Antoine despite the efforts of Steve Mafi of Castres. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

After his stunning performance in Castres on Friday, scoring his first two tries for Leinster and making 107 metres with 17 carries, Robbie Henshaw believes that his new province can win the European Champions Cup.

“I think we can go all the way,” Henshaw declared after Friday night’s draw against Castres. “We showed that in a load of areas in this competition. We are getting better and better and the strength and depth in the squad is unbelievable. But we are taking it one step at a time and not looking too far forward.

"We turn the page now and we go away to Six Nations camp. The lads have a week off and we keep a close eye on the Pro12. We have a bit of work to do there too and then after the Six Nations there is one game in the Pro12 and then back to the Champions Cup quarters. We have to keep eyes on both competitions, but this team is an exceptional team and it's great to be playing with them."

To that end, earning a home quarter-final, which in the event will be against a Wasps team that did the double over them last season in the pool stages, has put Leinster in a good place, and it’s for games such as this upcoming tie for which Henshaw made the switch from Connacht.


“Absolutely, yeah, it’s great to be in this competition first and foremost and it’s great to have quarter-finals secured, and it was one of the goals at the start of the season, get a home quarter-final. Obviously it’s great to be involved in a team like that and we showed unbelievable character to hold on at the end and keep them out.”

Better player

Henshaw also believes the move has made him a better player.

“It’s definitely improved my rugby, it’s definitely brought me on on the pitch as well. It’s great the lads can ask questions, I ask them questions as well and it’s a great environment to be involved in. We are always learning, we are always getting better on the pitch and we are solving equations, so it’s great to be involved and I feel like I am getting better as a player.”

Knowing that a draw against Castres effectively secured a home quarter-final, Leo Cullen confirmed that this message was conveyed to the players in favour of trying to go the length of the pitch with 14 men to secure a win that would have earned them a top two ranking, and with it a chance of a home country semi-final. Instead, if they reach the semi-finals, they will travel to France to play either Clermont or Toulon.

“We tried to get the message on at the end, wanted to make sure we did get the draw at the end, and the lads kicked the ball out. It was smart play, I think. The equations of trying to run from that end of the field, and the momentum – we were down to 14 men. On the hoof it’s a lot to take in but it’s probably the sensible decision.”

Short turnaround

One of the difficulties for Leinster and


will be the short turnaround after the Six Nations to the quarter-finals a fortnight later, with one Pro12 game in between, especially as Leinster are bulk suppliers to the Irish squad.

“You come off a pretty big Six Nations game, Ireland-England, then you are in to Pro12 again, Cardiff in the RDS, and then into quarter-finals wherever that may be,” noted Cullen. “It’s tough but that is why players do all the slog work into this period so you are in those big games. It’s exciting. Ireland-England, you hope there is a lot at stake for the lads in that game. They’ll take a breath and then you are into a huge quarter-final. We had break weekends last year so which would you rather?”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times