‘Hungry’ Leinster heading for Leicester knowing they need to be patient

Henshaw looked razor sharp against Connacht, and has rarely felt fresher

It's been an acutely frustrating season for Robbie Henshaw, injuries restricting him to just six games for Leinster and two starts for Ireland, along with three more off the bench. That manifested itself in his brace of tries in the Round-of-16 second leg against Connacht, a week after his first return to his old Sportsground stomping ground.

The 28-year-old this week admitted his frustration was not entirely down to just a lack of game time in the prime of his career.

“I haven’t played a whole lot. It has been an up and down one for me. Kind of stop-start. Definitely a bit of frustration, but again I just have to stick to the process and trust that it will come good and have a strong finish to the season. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to.

“Connacht was a funny one. We were up against it in Galway and that was a different experience for me because I played there for so long and that was my first game back there. It was hostile, and I felt the full heat of the Sportsground.

"There was a bit of frustration from that game and I definitely brought it through to the Aviva. We knew we had to do better than what we did in Galway. Thankfully we did go up a few gears and that showed in our performance."

We've done a lot of fitness work, a lot of contact work because we know Leicester are a big side with big ball carriers

On the plus side Henshaw looked razor sharp against his former province and he has rarely felt fresher entering the business end of the season as Leinster maintain their customary trophy hunt on both fronts, which intensifies with Saturday's crunch Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Leicester at Welford Road (kick-off 5.30pm).

“On the flip side it’s good. That’s what I’m saying to myself, it has been good. I can definitely attack this last block and really be fresh for the upcoming games. There is still a good few games to play if we go on and do what we want to do. It’s positive.”

Fitness work

Two weeks without a game in which the frontline squad have been preparing under the watchful eye of Stuart Lancaster at their UCD base also has him straining at the leash, albeit the way Henshaw describes it this has led to a surfeit of “Stuesdays”.

"Well, we've been getting our legs ran off us by Stuart which hasn't been enjoyable," he said wryly. "We've done a lot of fitness work, a lot of contact work because we know Leicester are a big side with big ball carriers. So we've been sharp there. And just a lot of kick-pressure stuff, getting ready for that aerial battle that George Ford is going to be sending a lot of kicks down our channels and the likes of the Ben Youngs, Wigglesworth, their box kicks.

“We’ve been doing a lot of practising on that – be on the move as a centre, working hard off the ball, knowing where the kick will land and being ready to go again.

“And when we set the kick, being on your bike and chasing it. There’s been a lot of running and a lot of hard training, which has been good. We’ve kind of treated it like a block to top up our fitness and make sure we’re ready to go for Saturday.”

We just need to make sure we're patient, and when we get our opportunities, we'll be able to take them

Last season's semi-final loss away to La Rochelle has, as Henshaw put it, heightened the "hunger" within the squad.

“We’ve looked a lot at what happened last year in the build-up to this game. It’s just making sure we know we only have one shot again at this stage of the season, and making sure everyone knows that you can’t afford to have any slip-ups.

“It’s definitely going to be a massive challenge playing the Premiership leaders over in their home ground. A lot of us haven’t played there before. It will definitely be something new, and it will be a big challenge. Probably the biggest challenge we’ve had so far.”

Pressure

Leicester are also a different beast compared to La Rochelle and demand that patience is a virtue.

“They’re a very pragmatic team in terms of how they go about their kicking game, how they apply pressure, in the sense of going through their ‘9’ and ‘10’, going aerially with their kicks.

“We just need to make sure we’re patient, and when we get our opportunities, we’ll be able to take them. It might be early, it might be late in the game that it might open up a bit. When it comes to the kick tennis that’s where, as a player, you need to be patient.”