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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Tom Maher/INPHO Robbie Henshaw.
# Rugby
'He's in good form' - Henshaw upbeat despite injury setbacks as Leinster big games await
Henshaw will miss the upcoming interprovincial derbies with Ulster, Munster and Connacht.

LEINSTER SENIOR COACH Stuart Lancaster has insisted that Robbie Henshaw remains in an upbeat mood, despite being ruled out through injury until the beginning of 2023.

Already sidelined because of a hamstring issue – which led to him being withdrawn five minutes into Ireland’s autumn international win over Fiji at the Aviva Stadium on 12 November – Henshaw also had a procedure on his wrist last week. This will see him missing out on selection for upcoming interprovincial derbies with Ulster, Munster and Connacht, as well as European clashes against Racing 92 and Gloucester.

“His hamstring is on the mend as well so it’s going to be both at the same time type of thing. His wrist isn’t a major thing, but if the hamstring is going to keep him out we thought he might as well get the wrist done at the same time. We’re pretty optimistic he’s going to be back early in the new year. He’s certainly in good form, good spirits. He was in today,” Lancaster remarked from a Leinster training session at Old Belvedere RFC yesterday.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to lose him for Europe, but he’ll be back hopefully for the following rounds in Europe. We have got the interpros post-Europe against Munster and Connacht. He should be back soon after that and we’ve obviously got Frawls [Ciaran Frawley] as well, who would be an option at 12, and Charlie Ngatai who is pretty adept.”

There was some good news on the injury front for the Leinster coaches ahead of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown with Ulster at the RDS, however. While a call will be made on Jonathan Sexton’s fitness as the week goes on, James Lowe returned to full training yesterday and Jordan Larmour is expected to do so later on today.

jordan-larmour-and-stuart-lancaster-arrive Evan Treacy / INPHO Jordan Larmour and Stuart Lancaster. Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

It might well be a case of being thrown at the deep end if this back-three duo are restored to the Leinster starting line-up, with Lancaster anticipating Ulster will provide a threat in all sectors of the pitch this weekend.

“I could go through the whole pack, the whole team. They’re all good players. They’re a very hard team to play against, a very difficult team to break down defensively. Their maul is very good, but if you overcommit to the maul, they’re very good at playing into space on the edges. They change direction well. There’s a lot to admire about them.

“For both of us, it’s almost the perfect game that we both need. One, we want to play against each other when the internationals are back and two, going into Europe as well. Obviously for the league table it’s pretty important as well, because if we can get the win it’s clear daylight. If they get the win, it narrows the gap.”

In addition to keeping a safe distance between themselves and Ulster at the URC summit – they currently lead the northerners by eight points with a game more played – Leinster are also looking to reintegrate their international contingent back into the provincial fold on Saturday. Having enjoyed a whirlwind November in the green of Ireland, the versatile Jimmy O’Brien is set to be one of these players.

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Having made his senior debut off the bench at inside centre for South Africa’s visit to Dublin on 5 November, O’Brien subsequently started at full-back and left-wing in subsequent meetings with Fiji and Australia. Although he was suddenly elevated into the test arena, Lancaster was in no way surprised to see the Kildare man acquitting himself so well under his former coaching partner Andy Farrell.

“I was really confident in him. People will wonder where he’s come from, but he has been involved here for seven years. He has played in big games for us in Europe and that’s the sort of progression you want to see. When I first arrived he was in the Academy, then he benches for the league games.

“Plays in league games, plays in Europe. Gets called up for the Ireland squad and gets capped. Hugo [Keenan] is a good example as well of players who have gone through that route, but Jimmy is such a skilful and composed player that I wasn’t worried about him,” Lancaster added.

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