Frustrated Robbie Henshaw fit again and hungry for action

Centre set to face Glasgow and looking forward to Champions Cup clash with Toulouse

 The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps  were launched by Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw, Josh Van Der Flier and  Rhys Ruddock  along with school kids,  from left, Kate Gunne, age 9, Molly Kearney (8), Vincent Hoolahan (10) and Andrew Quinlan (9) at  St. Mary’s National School, Ranelagh. Photograph:  David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps were launched by Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw, Josh Van Der Flier and Rhys Ruddock along with school kids, from left, Kate Gunne, age 9, Molly Kearney (8), Vincent Hoolahan (10) and Andrew Quinlan (9) at St. Mary’s National School, Ranelagh. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

 

Robbie Henshaw is back in full training and has confirmed he is in line to return to the Leinster line-up for their Pro14 game at home to Glasgow on Saturday week, eight days before their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse.

More than most, you’d wish him all the luck in the world for the remainder of the season. If it wasn’t for his bad luck with injuries lately Henshaw wouldn’t have had any luck at all.

He was sidelined for almost three months with a torn hamstring suffered in the warm-up against Argentina in November. Then, even the dead leg he suffered in the build-up to Ireland’s second Six Nations outing away to Scotland tuned out to be the rarest of dead legs. Literally.

Emanating from a full-on collision in training at the Irish squad’s Carton House base, as his leg mystifyingly kept swelling up, thus ruling him out of the remainder of the Six Nations, he went to a specialist in London and was in one sense relieved to discover the uniqueness of the injury.

“This ended up being one of the rarest dead legs in the world,” said Henshaw, ruefully. “Honestly. There had only been three or four other ones that they’ve seen in the world. Roughly three or four, they didn’t give me names. One in AFL, one in Ice Hockey – in sport, not just rugby.

“It was a frustrating one, I’m not going to lie. It was a tough one but I am on the right side of it now thankfully.”

Lest we forget, Henshaw also missed the last three games of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning campaign last year with a dislocated shoulder suffered in the act of scoring his second try against Italy, and all this after returning from the Lions tour prematurely with a torn pectoral muscle.

He sustained the dead leg days before he was due to revert to midfield after a trying first game in yonks at fullback against England a week earlier, so doesn’t have particularly happy memories of his last outing.

Henshaw tries to maintain a positive outlook about the experience.

“It was a tough game to play. I hadn’t played fullback in a while but it was a great challenge I suppose, coming out against England. Owen Farrell was pretty exceptional in that game in terms of finding space in behind. I had a lot of running to do in the first half particularly.”

He says he’d be happy to play at fullback again if asked, but is now focusing on reverting to his customary centre position with Leinster.

Number one

“I know I played 20 minutes against Treviso but the last time I properly played a full game there was with Connacht. The last game I played there for Ireland was my first game against USA at fullback. It’s a long time ago and I am sure with the way the game has developed, it’s different to how it was back then,” he noted, before repeating “but it was also great to be involved and be tested.”

Henshaw is at a loss to explain why Ireland didn’t scale the heights of the previous year. But having just finished watching Amazon Prime’s behind-the-scenes documentary All Or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks, he believes Ireland, and perhaps indeed Leinster, need to cope better with “the way teams are coming for us now.”

“We’re top of Europe, both with Leinster and Ireland and you need to be able to deal with that; the day-to-day pressure. Every time you take to the field, you’re the number one, and teams are going to put out their best performance against you.

“Funny one, from watching the All Blacks documentary on Amazon, they deal with it every day. That’s what they’ve learned to deal with. Once you’re at the top, it’s consistency in being perfect with your performances every time you take the field.

“It’s good learnings for Ireland. It’s something that’s good to be taking into the World Cup. For where we are and where we want to be, we still have work to do. To stay there, that’s the challenge, and that’s something we’ll need to look at doing going into the World Cup and beyond.”

During Leinster’s frenetic and taut Euro quarter-final win over Ulster last Saturday, the camera frequently panned onto Johnny Sexton and Henshaw for what the latter admits was a nerve-jangling watch.

“But fair play to Ulster, they really came at us hard and they played some serious stuff. It was a great game to watch but it was nervy towards the middle part of the second half,” he admitted, highlighting Leinster’s character in digging deep, and how it will stand to them.

Massive test

Darren Cave was a team-mate for Henshaw’s aforementioned debut against the USA in June 2013. The two have also been midfield partners for the Irish Wolfhounds, and Henshaw could only admire the way Cave rolled back the years and made some superb defensive reads for what will now be his final European game.

“It’s never nice to see a player retire, but I think he’s retiring on his terms. He’s an unbelievable servant for Ulster, and when I was playing with him, he was always great, always helping me out. So I’ve huge respect for him and what he’s done for Ulster and Ireland.”

Watching that quarter-final and Toulouse’s extraordinary 14-man win over Racing has also heightened Henshaw’s desire to make it back for that intriguing semi-final between the two four-time champions.

“They’re a pretty exceptional team and a young team as well. We had a good feeling they were going to win at Racing, just with their backs and their quality they have when they get ball on a fast track. They’re really dangerous. It’s going to be a massive test of our character, we’ll have to be at our best because we know they’re coming for us.”

And how.

Robbie Henshaw was speaking at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in St Mary's National School. For more information visit leinsterrugby.ie/camps.

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