Robbie Henshaw ready to make comeback
Ireland centre could feature for Connacht in Challenge Cup this weekend
Robbie Henshaw during training at the Sportsground today. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw is set for a return to action this week in Connacht’s final European pool fixture.
Henshaw is back training at the Sportground in the expectation of lining out in Saturday’s Challenge Cup game against Russian visitors Enisei-STM, but he is still awaiting final clearance on his hand injury.
“He had the scan last week and the surgeon said he was not quite ready,” said Connacht coach Pat Lam, “which is the reason he didn’t go to Brive. Now it’s the second week, and again he feels pretty good with it.
“He will train all this week and prepare to play, and then we will need the final sign off from the surgeon.”
Henshaw is expected to slot into the number 13 jersey alongside Bundee Aki, while scrumhalf Kieran Marmion is also returning after a hip pointer.
It is not such good news for fullback Darragh Leader who has been beset by hand injuries since being involved in Ireland training sessions last season. The Galwegian aggravated an old injury when playing for the Eagles on Saturday, and is expected to be out for the remainder of the season.
After recovering from a pre-season wrist injury, Leader fractured the second metacarpal in his hand when playing against Cardiff in December.
“It is a huge blow to him and to us. We had expected him back, and now, in his first game, he gets another injury. He will see the surgeon this week and will probably have surgery, so is expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season.”
Returning number eight Eoin McKeon also suffered a hip pointer playing for the Eagles, while Jason-Harris Wright suffered concussion early in the Brive game and is following return to play protocols. Craig Ronaldson remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Lam says he will be naming the strongest available squad ahead of Saturday’s “do or die” European fixture with Enisei-STM after last weekend’s “horrendous” performance against Brive, which Connacht lost to an injury-time penalty.
“This is the Challenge Cup and we set a goal to get through to the next stage. On the back of the poor performance last week, we are not in. We would have qualified if we had won, so the simple equation is we need five points - and that still doesn’t guarantee us - but it does give us the best possible chance, and that is all we can control.
“So the strongest possible available squad will be named this week. We are back at the Sportsground, this is do or die for us in this competition, so we will be putting the strongest possible side out to win the game, and win the game well - and more importantly by performing well.”
After the 21-18 loss in France, Lam says Connacht now need to concentrate on the “mental” aspects of winning.
“We are in the second half of the season, and the biggest learning for us is, yes, all our skills have improved, the game plan is really solid, and we know it can win games for us, the guys are in good condition, and we are now down to the mental side of things - to be able to move on when you make mistakes.
“We went from one mistake to the next mistake and it’s about being really honest with our preparation. I have spoken to a few players and it’s fair to say some were disappointed with their preparation - maybe not as focused as it would have been - and that to me is a great outcome, with players being honest about their prep.
“Ultimately we need consistency, and I cannot tell that every training session, it’s up to the players, so getting self awareness in this issue is a big outcome, and it’s probably a good time to realise that as we go into the second part of the season.”