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'Robbie is a big player for us' - Ireland feel Henshaw is worth the World Cup wait

The Leinster centre hasn’t featured in Japan yet due to a hamstring injury.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS underlined Robbie Henshaw’s importance to Ireland, with the Leinster centre still yet to feature in the World Cup.

The 26-year-old suffered a hamstring injury in training in Japan on the eve of the tournament, meaning he missed the opening two games, while he won’t be involved against Russia in Kobe tomorrow either. 

While Schmidt said Henshaw was “on the cusp” of facing the Russians, he is only set to make his return in Ireland’s final pool game against Samoa, before Schmidt hopes the midfielder is involved in their possible quarter-final.

robbie-henshaw Henshaw after Ireland training in Kobe yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While Ireland might have replaced other players in their squad in similar injury situations, Schmidt underlined that Henshaw will have been worth the wait.

Henshaw’s absence, combined with Chris Farrell sustaining a concussion, means that Garry Ringrose will start his third game in 12 days tomorrow, having also featured in all four of Ireland’s World Cup warm-up games.

Henshaw’s injury has stretched Ireland’s squad but Schmidt believes he has made the right decision.

“Under the rules of the tournament, if he’s not here then he’s not in the squad and then you can’t use him when you get to the business end,” said Schmidt yesterday in Kobe. 

“So we could have replaced Robbie with somebody else but we knew that he’d be on the cusp of being ready for the game on Thursday and he is, but we feel that Garry is fully fit and there’s less risk. The sooner we play Robbie, just with that hamstring, the more risk there is.

“So, we can build a little bit more volume into what he’s doing in training and we’d like to think that we’re still in control of our destiny. If we can get the win on Thursday and we can get a win against Samoa, then there’s a good chance we qualify.

“If we can pick up a bonus point or two then we definitely qualify, so from that perspective to have Robbie available for Samoa and then potentially into a quarter-final against the All Blacks or South Africa or Italy, whoever it is, Robbie is a pretty big player for us and has a lot of respect within the squad.

“He’s got good World Cup experience. I thought he was phenomenal in the French game last time [in 2015] when we did qualify from our pool to go on to a quarter-final.

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“For all those reasons, we kept Robbie here.”

robbie-henshaw Henshaw is expected to return against Samoa. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Schmidt admitted that there is some risk involved in starting Ringrose for the third consecutive game of the World Cup, but his options were limited due to Henshaw and Farrell’s injuries.

Keith Earls or Jordan Larmour could potentially have slotted into 13 against Russia, but Schmidt opted to give Ringrose another start.

“It’s a risk but Garry is feeling great and he’s playing super,” said Schmidt. “I thought Garry was really good against Japan, he was one of the guys who didn’t really miss a beat. He was still working really hard, creating opportunities.

“He moved into 12 and we had Jordan at 13, who is really a back three player for us. We had Luke McGrath on the wing and we were chasing the game, and that’s a fairly tough situation to be in. Because you’re limited to 23 players it sometimes happens like that.

“Robbie is on the cusp of being available and if we’d put him back in this week, which we’d thought about, we felt that was a risk we don’t need to take because Garry’s feeling good.

“We can put Robbie in maybe next week and at the same time we’ve got Bundee Aki back [at inside centre], and he’s got a fair bit of bounce about him.

“With Chris Farrell suffering a concussion and it being a five-day turnaround, our hands are tied there, and we want to make sure we look after Chris as well and that’s part of the formula.

“We thought about potentially moving Keith Earls there, but then we’d have had to keep Jacob Stockdale ticking over, and so it was really based around who was still feeling really good.

“Bundee and Garry have a really good midfield relationship so it works out, hopefully, that that will still be productive for us.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Kobe

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