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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019

'It's a serious effort to get back in that timeframe': Henshaw huge for Leinster after shoulder injury

Robbie Henshaw worked tirelessly to make a remarkably quick return from shoulder injury.

AS ROBBIE HENSHAW was helped off the Aviva Stadium pitch in February with his face revealing intense pain and his right arm in a sling, it was difficult to imagine what sort of impact he could have on Leinster’s season.

Robbie Henshaw leaves the field due to injury Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Indeed, just a few days later Ireland trained in Henshaw’s home town of Athlone and Joe Schmidt sounded like a man who was close to crossing Henshaw’s name off his list of centre options for the June tour of Australia as he lamented “that shoulder isn’t going to be good for another three-four months.”

And yet, 10 weeks to the day since his painful try against the Azzurri, without a run-out in a lesser fixture as a warm-up, Henshaw was back playing top class rugby on Lansdowne Road for 80 long minutes.

Playing alongside Garry Ringrose, another man with surgery on the upper limb joint fresh in the memory, Henshaw certainly didn’t have to hide away. With nine hard carries and 15 tackles to stop Scarlets dead in their tracks, the shoulder was well and truly to the wheel.

The primary credit from Henshaw’s coach and team-mates is aimed at the 24-year-old centre’s work ethic and diligent rehab, but Leo Cullen also offered praise the way of surgeon Dr. Hannan Mullett.

“He was just literally straight in, into his rehab from day one,” said Cullen of Henshaw’s unlikely path from surgery to a central role in the 38-16 win over the Pro12 champions.

“Karl Denvir (senior Leinster physio) has been working with him. Yeah, it’s a serious effort to get back in that timeframe. The surgeon he had allowed him to push on (the rehab) aggressively and what he delivered out there today was incredible.”

Robbie Henshaw with David Bulbring Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Before taking the field with Henshaw for the first time in a blue jersey since the January win over Glasgow, Sexton sent praise the centre’s way by pointing out how much messy ball he turns out clean. After playing, the out-half felt he had sold his team-mate a long way short with that assessment.

“Yeah, I probably didn’t do him justice,” said Sexton, “he’s got everything. What an incredible athlete to spend the time out that he has, come back and it looked like he had never been away.

“By far the most impressive performance today by him.”

Make no mistake, Leinster place an enormous value on what Henshaw delivers to this team. They spent long enough on the wrong end of his presence on the field while chasing his registration off it.

“I said when Connacht won the Pro12 in Murrayfield,” comes the reminder from Cullen, “‘I was glad that player was going to be in our team next year.’

“He has been a brilliant addition for us. He has set a great example to everyone else around him, the way he goes about his business and he is a pleasure to have here.”

Robbie Henshaw with James Tracy and Rhys Patchell Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

It’s a phenomenon we may get used to in the coming years — but because Henshaw was such a star coming out of school, hit the ground running immediately at senior level for Connacht and is already a physical enforcer for club and country no matter how robust the opposition — it can be easy to forget that Henshaw’s 25th birthday is still ahead of him.

His career still has a long way to run and the peak of his abilities are ahead of him too. Even during his time on the sidelined, Henshaw refused to call a halt to progress.

“It’s not just getting back from his shoulder, he has used the time and he has been working away on his skills. You can see he is working himself physically.

“He is faster and fitter coming back from his shoulder, you couldn’t praise the guy enough.”

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Sean Farrell

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