IT’S STANDARD FOR team-mates to be effusive in praise for each other — but there appears to be something more to the bond forming between Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.
Since first striking a chord in the interpro hammering of Munster back in October, the pair have worked in tandem seamlessly in the Leinster midfield and demonstrated the devastating potential they possess.
Injuries, internationals and IRFU player welfare policy have meant opportunities have been limited since but watching the Henshaw-Ringrose axis fire again on Friday night was like poetry in motion; the hype is justified.
Even allowing for an opposition that were hardly worthy of the title, the partnership showed incredibly encouraging signs again outside of the returning Johnny Sexton who was masterful in marshaling proceedings for the eastern province.
There is a genuine understanding there between the two centres, both in attack and defence, and a trust forged on knowing each other’s games inside out.
“It’s been going really well,” Henshaw said yesterday.
“I’m enjoying playing with him and we fed off one another well at the weekend. It was brilliant to get back on the pitch with Garry. Two of us had some nice touches and a couple of offloads and we worked well together so looking forward to bringing that on into the future hopefully.
“We want to do our best to be in the Ireland squad so we need to keep playing the best we can in blue and put our hands up.”
Henshaw may be the more experienced operator, but it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s just two years between the pair in age.
The Athlone native’s move to Dublin has allowed the team-mates to spend more time together off the pitch, and form much more than a working relationship.
“A centre partnership is all about sitting down and getting to know the person off the pitch as well and myself and Garry have a good understanding of each other now,” the former Connacht man added.
With the Zebre defence — if you could call it that — providing little or no resistance in the face of Leinster’s unrelenting onslaught, Henshaw and Ringrose were afforded time and space with the ball to tear the Italians apart.
From the off, it clicked.
In the build-up to Leinster’s opening try, courtesy of Sean O’Brien, the half-back and midfield combination linked beautifully to create the chance.
McGrath-Sexton-Henshaw-Ringrose, from one 22 to another.
Henshaw’s power and direct running in midfield saw him break the line with Ringrose providing support on his left shoulder. The offload was instinctive and Ringrose was away.
From there, Leinster got quick ball and McGrath’s looping pass right gave O’Brien the simple task of running it in. Just one example, albeit after four minutes, of the symmetry in Leinster’s midfield.
What they do with ball in hand, and that creative spark, will naturally get supporters off their seats but it’s the work without it which makes the Henshaw-Ringrose partnership so encouraging, even at this early stage.
Ringrose has developed into a real leader defensively and that area of his game has come on leaps and bounds as he’s physically developed. Henshaw’s threat around the rucks and ability in the tackle has always been a particular strength.
“He’s definitely getting more confident in defence and I’m always encouraging him not to be afraid to get off the line and hit the players,” Henshaw said of his partner’s defensive work.
“Go and back himself because he’s quick off the ground and a great impact tackler as well. He makes a lot of good reads and I’ll always have his back if he goes to make that read. He got a lot of them last week so just looking forward to going with him again.”
And for Ringrose — the junior partner — it’s a privilege to play alongside Henshaw.
“I certainly feel lucky to play outside Robbie,” Ringrose said on Friday night.
“You forget how young he is because of the experience he has. He certainly saved my ass a couple of times out there. It is just a pleasure to play with him and I am constantly learning off him.
“It is a great opportunity for me, personally, to get a chance to play alongside him. Hopefully I can improve as much as possible.”
Exciting times for Leinster and, with the Six Nations looming large, for Ireland too.
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