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Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Leinster and Ireland centre Garry Ringrose.
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'His workrate is unbelievable' - Ringrose continues to shine in Ireland's midfield
Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi believes Robbie Henshaw will be spurred on by the form of his Ireland teammates.

FELIPE CONTEPOMI IS well placed to discuss matters surrounding the Ireland team given he spends his weeks working closely with the bulk of Andy Farrell’s squad. 

The Leinster backs coach knows what it’s like to be spoilt for choice when sitting down to pick a team, and the former out-half believes Robbie Henshaw – who missed Saturday’s Six Nations win against Wales through injury – will be spurred on by the form of his Ireland teammates as he looks to work his way back into Farrell’s plans for Saturday’s trip to play France.

Last year was arguably the high point of Henshaw’s career in terms of his performances on the pitch, the 28-year-old delivering a series of superb displays and starting all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa.

However this season has proved more frustrating for Henshaw as injury has ruled him out of some key games, including Ireland’s November win over the All Blacks and last weekend’s 29-7 defeat of Wales. 

And with Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki both shining in Ireland’s midfield, and James Hume providing competition on the bench, Henshaw could now face a battle to get back into the starting XV.

“Sport goes very quickly,” says Contepomi. “You can be the best last year and you’re not when someone takes your place.

“It’s hard for sports people, you need to keep that momentum. Unluckily for Robbie, he picked up a few niggles throughout the last few months and he didn’t have the continuity he would have liked. But I am sure when he comes back, he will show (his quality). It doesn’t make him a bad player. He is still a great player.

“It’s great to have that depth, it’s a good headache for the coaches. When you have that depth and competition in a group, it makes you even better. He will probably benefit from that.”

robbie-henshaw Ryan Bailey / INPHO Henshaw has only played a limited role for Leinster and Ireland this season due to injury. Ryan Bailey / INPHO / INPHO

While Henshaw has found himself on the outside looking in – since returning from Ireland camp in November he’s played just over 120 minutes of rugby – Ringrose has been to the fore in a series of impressive team performances, with the 27-year-old an influential figure against Wales, providing some smart contributions in attack and scoring a well-taken second-half try.

“Well, I think if you remember Garry maybe 18 months ago, he was the one guy you’d say you’d pick for the Lions and, then, he picked up some knocks and that’s the fluidity of rugby, of professional sport,” Contepomi continues.

“It goes very quickly and one day you’re up and one day you’re down.

“One thing on Garry I can say is he’s unbelievably diligent and so humble and he works so hard to improve every single week. That’s why you never doubt that if he’s injury-free he’ll always be at a brilliant sort of level of rugby.

And what Garry does a lot, and maybe because we analyse in different ways, is all the unseen work. He does a lot, working hard off the ball, cleaning out at the breakdown. It’s unbelievable the work-rate he has.

“I was actually talking to some of the coaches here when we just chat about the (Ireland) game, and I said ‘It’s good to see Garry back to his best and getting better’ because yeah, definitely there have been some very good performances week-in, week-out in the last few months that he’s got under his belt and it’s great to see him playing like that.”

The Leinster coaching team have also noted Ringrose’s growing presence as a leader on the field, a trait which has seen the province hand him the captaincy previously. 

He’s a guy who will always work his way and earn his right to talk and so on. Now I think he understands that he has earned that place because of all that he has done in his career up until now.

“He has learned and is developing his leadership skills and it’s amazing how good he has been for us in the last couple of months and I’m sure he’s translating that into the Irish camp.

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“He is such a diligent guy that he not only leads with the words but with his actions. He really walks the walk so it’s really easy to follow him, more so if he plays the way he played at the weekend. So definitely he has developed a lot his leadership. His game knowledge, his fitness, you can see he’s coming back together like a real force in that Irish squad.”

garry-ringrose-scores-their-fourth-try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ringrose capped a fine performance against Wales with a second-half try. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

And Contepomi, who is currently helping Leinster prepare for a URC clash against Edinburgh on Friday, believes Ireland can hit another level after they extended their winning run to nine game with that one-sided victory over Wayne Pivac’s side.

“It’s a joy to watch Ireland, especially when you watch the other games. They kept on building from where they left off in the Autumn Series.

“It’s hard to play at that level with such cohesion and synchronisation. The braveness of them playing the ball, it was beautiful to watch.

“Knowing some of the players and the staff, I am pretty sure they know they have done well but they know they have another gear to get to. They will need that in France because it is never easy. It’s a joy to watch.” 

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