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'He can have a huge role' - Lions delighted to have Robbie Henshaw back

The Leinster and Ireland centre is back from injury tomorrow against the Stormers.

Henshaw makes his return tomorrow.
Henshaw makes his return tomorrow.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LIONS ATTACK COACH Gregor Townsend feels returning centre Robbie Henshaw can have a major influence for the tourists as they build towards their Test series against the Springboks.

Henshaw has been sidelined by a hamstring injury in recent weeks but makes his return in the number 12 shirt against the Stormers in Cape Town tomorrow.

While the likes of Bundee Aki, Chris Harris, and Elliot Daly – who will play alongside Henshaw in midfield tomorrow – have been able to impress on tour, Henshaw is making up for lost time after only featuring in the pre-tour clash with Japan so far.

“He can have a huge role in all aspects because he’s an all-round player,” said Townsend today.

“He’s a good attacker, both as a ball-carrier and a passer, a very good support runner too. Then he’s got the kick chase ability which he showed really well against Scotland this year and in other games.

“Defensively, he’s outstanding so I think he showed in that Japan game as well, how Steve [Tandy, the Lions defence coach] is wanting the team to defend, he adapted really quickly to that.

“So we’re delighted he’s back. He got through training fine today and he gets a chance now to show that he’s available to play the Test series.”

Henshaw, fullback Stuart Hogg, and tour captain Alun Wyn Jones are all making their returns for the Lions tomorrow having only had one appearance so far due to injury in Henshaw and Jones’ case, and isolation in Hogg’s case.

british-and-irish-lions-stuart-hogg Stuart Hogg also returns tomorrow.

Townsend underlined that their lack of game time in recent weeks doesn’t leave them out of the running for Test selection in any way.

“They’ve had less games so it’s what they’ve done in the games and where we see them fit with the game we want to play,” said Townsend.

“Both of them [Hogg and Henshaw] have an opportunity tomorrow. It would have been much tougher for them if they hadn’t been available for this game.

“We want to give players opportunities, the same with Alun Wyn. He’s come out and maybe we weren’t thinking and he wasn’t thinking that he’d be involved in this game, but we want to give players the opportunity to show where they are, physically, but also where they are in terms of their form.

“So it’s now up to them to grab it.”

Meanwhile, Townsend said that Scotland out-half Finn Russell could recover from his Achilles tendon injury before the end of the tour.

He won’t be fit for the first Test but the Lions hope to have him available for the other two clashes with the Boks.

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“He had his injection, he’s out of his boot, so he’ll start the rehab process gently this week,” said Townsend.

“When we get to the end of the week, we’re hoping he’ll be able to be back involved in full training. So it’s unlikely he’ll be involved in the first Test but we’re still hopeful he’ll be available for the last two.”

gregor-townsend Townsend is back with the Lions squad. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Townsend himself has just returned to the Lions set-up in person, having spent the last week isolating in Johannesburg.

He re-joined the group in Cape Town on Wednesday and is excited to be working hands-on with the players.

“It’s been a frustrating week in my hotel room,” said Townsend. “It was great being back with the squad on Wednesday.

“In terms of contingencies, what we’ve found over the last 12 months is that technology can play a big part in connecting with people, be that being in a meeting via Zoom or presenting to the players their video clips and having meetings with them over the phone.

“Actually, the week we had with those two games and the late changes with people in isolation, there wasn’t so much coaching time I missed, just the connecting with the players and being in the room with them.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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