Robbie Henshaw ready to meet Ireland’s high standards on return

Leinster centre has been largely absent since the Lions series during the summer

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw during training ahead of the match against Argentina. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The gang is back. Well, the old bromance of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose will try and make sparks fly. Leinster's Lions centre is fit again after injuring his foot in pre-season and drops into Ireland's final match of the series.

There hasn’t been much sight of Henshaw since he starred in three Lions Test matches last summer. He then picked up the injury and he’s back to put a face in Andy Farrell’s thinking after two impressive Irish performances.

“(It) had been at me for a while and took time for it to settle,” he says of the injury. “It was start of pre-season, bit of a niggly one, you can’t rush them unfortunately.

“Delighted to get three [Lions] Test caps. Was top of my list in terms of goals at the start of last season and delighted to get that experience. Definitely learned a lot from it and will certainly take it forward into the future for my career.”


It is not a role Henshaw is used to playing, slotting in at the tail-end of a series. Traditionally it is he who has set the bar that Bundee Aki has to reach. It’s quite the reverse now and a different challenge. But Henshaw is quite the stoic.

The expectations have been set and no amount of talking around that will change anything. But he’s aware and also driven by the dare to meet Argentina as Ireland met the All Blacks last weekend.

“I only played Argentina once before, tough, tough game and a physical one definitely,” he says. “Expectations of us as players when we take the field and from the coaches, they expect us to play every time like we did against the All Blacks.

“Things are not perfect all the time. But the last couple of weeks have been unbelievably clinical and accurate. We have to keep up that performance to be accurate and be disciplined and take our chances.

“It’s a different experience to be in the third of three Tests. It is a big challenge but exciting and the first game of the season is a challenge in itself.”

Henshaw talks about returning to where he left off, which is a tall order. Fresh and fit as he is, it is from a standing start. More likely Farrell needs to see the joists of the old Henshaw in place, the team play with Ringrose outside and Joey Carbery inside and that all-round athletic game he plays at such an astonishingly high level.

Different accent

Aki has played his part well in the position and Farrell knows what an asset he has there with the Connacht centre. But Henshaw at his best gives the team an entirely different accent in the 12 position.

“I had that history before, of not having a lot of time to get ready for the big games,” he says. “Looking back at lads who toured South Africa, they only played three or four games more than I have. So that is great they are not too far ahead of me.

“The squad are feeling good. Such a great performance last weekend, a collective turning the page this week and how tough this week will be with the energy, physicality and emotion the Pumas play with.”

You can imagine the Argentinean coach, Mario Ledesma, saying something similar to his players about some of the Irish team qualities with energy, physicality and emotion as the base ingredients, especially with a November bite-sized Grand Slam at stake.

But Henshaw sees it through a longer lens. The World Cup is in the distance and there is little harm in the 28-year-old setting out an early stall a few months ahead of the Six Nations Championship.

“Competition has definitely increased, everyone playing great stuff for provinces and in green shirts,” he says. “It is a great driver for the squad. Any competition keeps you on your toes and to try to stay ahead.

“It’s tough for everyone to get a shot with the jersey. We definitely have eyes on the World Cup and 2023. I suppose we are building, sorry, laying foundations and building slowly towards that.”

Laying, building. For Henshaw that begins on Sunday.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times