Henshaw starts at 12 tomorrow. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Aki 'has been brilliant' in helping Henshaw prepare for first Lions Test start

The Leinster and Ireland centre has overcome a hamstring injury to face the Springboks.

THEY’VE BEEN GETTING slagged by their Lions team-mates for being joined at the hip off the pitch, but Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki’s close relationship has been helping the former get ready for the Springboks on the pitch too. 

Aki is one of the unlucky Lions players to miss out on involvement in the first Test against South Africa tomorrow, with Henshaw and Elliot Daly named as the starting centres and Owen Farrell providing midfield cover off the bench.

But the Connacht man has put aside his own disappointment to ensure that Henshaw and Daly are well prepared for what they will face in this weekend’s Test by leathering into them in training.

“He has been great,” says Henshaw ahead of his first Lions Test start.

“I’ve been asking him to give me a hand wherever he can, in training. He trained the house down on Tuesday and was unbelievable and he’s just bringing that physicality that we’re going to expect from the Springboks.

“He has been brilliant off the pitch as well, just looking through video and helping in any way he can. Bundee has been brilliant.”

Unsurprisingly, Aki has been playing the Damian de Allende role in Lions training and has been “loving it,” according to Henshaw.

The Leinster and Ireland centre is set for his latest confrontation with de Allende in a season full of them.

robbie-henshaw-and-bundee-aki Henshaw and Aki at Lions training. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve played Damian about five times already this year just within the Pro14 so yeah, it’s a funny one, probably match six,” says Henshaw.

“It’s going to be a huge test but I’ll have a chat after with him as always. He’s a great player and a great guy as well.”

Tomorrow will be a proud occasion for Henshaw, his family, and friends. Many of them will gather at Buccaneers RFC where an outdoor screen has been set up so they can roar Henshaw on together.

He was a Lions tourist in 2017 but saw his trip ended early by a pectoral injury, departing home without a Test appearance.

This time around, he came into the tour as close to a Test team certainty as possible but then had to deal with the frustration of a hamstring injury that sidelined him until last weekend’s clash with the Stormers. Happily, the 28-year-old came through that game unscathed and starts in the number 12 shirt tomorrow.

“The last tour was a massive learning for me personally and I took a lot from it and used it as a springboard to get here,” says Henshaw.

“It’s a great feeling to be involved in that starting Test, it’s where you want to be as a player. 

“I knew from previous history with hamstrings that it wasn’t major and after a few days I was back up running and doing a lot of movement on it. It was only very minor so thankfully that was OK.

“But it was good to get a couple of weeks training under the belt and the game last week as well, so all good.”

robbie-henshaw Henshaw is set for his first Test start. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The lack of game time means Henshaw has only played alongside Daly for 57 minutes before the first Test but he explains that they’ve built an understanding in Lions training, as well as on the 2017 tour, and he has no concerns about any lack of cohesion.

“It’s a really exciting partnership with Elliot,” says Henshaw. “His game knowledge and attacking skillset are second to none in the game, he’s a top-class player.

“His defensive reads are also quality, so I’ve only played with him two or three times in the the last two tours but it’s great to partner up with him. He’s a quality player.

“We roomed together in 2017, we played a bit. He played mostly at 15 but I think I did play a bit with him at 13 in 2017.

“We do have a bit of craic off the pitch, he’s a great lad. It’s building nicely. It’s very exciting, it’s going to be good and I’m looking forward to getting going.”

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey look ahead to the big one this weekend in Cape Town. Become a member for loads of more rugby podcasts and video analysis shows:

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel