Robbie Henshaw aware of danger Wasps will bring out wide
Leinster centre ready to take on Wasps in the Champions Cup after Six Nations exploits
Robbie Henshaw: the 23-year-old centre has more caps for Ireland (29) than he has for Leinster (nine). Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Jimmy Gopperth left Leinster in 2015 not long before the murmurings of Robbie Henshaw’s arrival from Connacht. Henshaw finally landed in the RDS in 2016 and while the two players never crossed paths as team-mates they are likely to do so as adversaries in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
In the last two Wasps games, Gopperth, who can play outhalf, has moved out to 12 with Danny Cipriani taking up the pivot role.
Henshaw has become a veteran quicker than most, and scored the winning try against the All Blacks in Soldier Field in Chiacago last November. He has eased himself into that position of “if fit will play” for Leinster and Ireland. His predecessor Gordon D’Arcy would have known a lot about that secure sense of position.
“It’s good to be back with the young lads and to offer them some advice and to help them out,” said the 23-year-old, who has more caps for Ireland (29) than he has for Leinster (nine). He made his provincial debut just last autumn against Munster in round six of the Pro 12.
Bump of sorts
In the spirit of Anglo-Irish rugby matches and all the feelings they engender, the final stanza of the Six Nations has provided a bump of sorts for Henshaw. That’s a good state of mind to bring into Wasps. But already he’s an old scuffed head on bruised young shoulders.
“The internationals in the [Wasps] squad coming into this week . . . it gives us good confidence,” he says. “A handful of their players were playing that day as well [with England].
We need to be ready for what’s coming at us along with their dynamic ball-carriers in the pack
“From the other side of it, you could look at it as them being hungry to come back to try and turn things around. We know what they are like and we know what a few of the individuals are like.
“They have wheels on the edges. They have ball-players like Cipriani and Gopperth so we need to be on our toes. We need to be ready for what’s coming at us along with their dynamic ball-carriers in the pack.”
This, of course, is Leinster’s comeback year after last season’s failure to emerge from the pool. Half embarrassed and deeply concerned that if they did not bounce back immediately, the aristocratic crown that has comfortably fitted for all of these years would begin to slip.
What are Leinster and their incredible support without the opiate of winning streaks, try scoring, league titles and European trophies, all of it inextricably tied to how they actually go about it? Leinster understands what defines them. That’s one reason Henshaw looked east when he left Connacht.
“We will have to be rock solid because they go to the edges, they attack in the wider channels and don’t truck it up too much,” he says. “That’s where we need to be on our toes outside, myself and Garry [Ringrose] and whoever the wingers are.”
It won’t be a relentless bruiser like England became but a test of organisational and positioning ability from two centres, both in their early 20s. Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen will see this as a test of experience for the two up against clever, fast-running athletes.
“We were back in planning since last Thursday,” says Henshaw determinedly stating there has been no slacking. “We got a few days then which was beneficial to us, just to get back into the rhythm of things and back on the page.
“There are no issues there coming back in and getting the right terminology back on track.”
It is what you expect to hear, quiet confidence and surety of purpose, of how Leinster will go about negating the Wasps threat and picking apart their weakest points.
On those details Henshaw becomes less forthcoming. If he is forced to say more, you feel, he will choose to throw himself out the first floor window of Leinster HQ.
A little push won’t hurt. It will have to be, Robbie, something of a balance between pyjama Super Rugby and keeping it tight?
“We will look to vary it up,” he says. “There will be a few options to go through them as well as to go around them. We’ll do what we have to do to win.”
That’s what Leinster did last week against Cardiff, what they had to do. Wasps will take more out of the home team. Henshaw won’t say it. But he knows it.