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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 26 November 2020
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'It was great to see him out in blue at long last'

Leo Cullen was delighted to see Robbie Henshaw make his Leinster debut earlier.

Henshaw returned to action today.
Henshaw returned to action today.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

YOU CAN’T REALLY categorise it as a dream debut, but Robbie Henshaw showed Leinster supporters an exciting glimpse of what is to come on his first appearance for the province.

After biding his time nursing a shoulder injury, the Ireland international looked at home in the Leinster midfielder this afternoon, playing his part in their interpro win over Munster.

While Henshaw didn’t conjure anything particularly spectacular, he slotted in alongside Garry Ringrose seamlessly and demonstrated what he’ll bring to the party for Leo Cullen’s side.

In an intensely physical affair at the Aviva Stadium, the Athlone native shipped a few big hits and that he lasted the full 80 minutes underlines his worth already.

Cullen admitted afterwards that it was not the plan for Henshaw to play the full game but in the end he finished it in the fullback position. His versatility is another major asset for Leinster.

“It was great to see him out in blue at long last,” the Leinster head coach said.

“I thought he looked pretty strong and abrasive in the middle of the field. He’s trained hard to get to this point. I was just saying during the week it was hard to believe that he hadn’t been off the mark yet in terms of playing games, but it was good to see him get 80 minutes.

Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Munster’s Rory Scannell Henshaw holds onto possession under pressure from Rory Scannell. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s played one game so, I think it depends [where Henshaw plays] on what the team needs. We’ve had these discussions before already. He finished the game at 15. Noel [Reid] is in the centre, Joey’s [Carbery] at 10 and Robbie was at 15, so who’s to say that won’t be a combination that we use as well going forward? Robbie can play at 13 as well.”

From the outset, the Henshaw-Ringrose partnership clicked and the pair fed off each other, working well both with and without the ball. The observing Joe Schmidt must have been watching on with intrigue.

Ringrose, in particular, showed great flair in possession and cut through the Munster defence on more than occasion. The crowd was on their feet whenever the 21-year-old was involved.

Man-of-the-match Johnny Sexton, who was immense in pulling the strings for the hosts, was full of praise for the young centre: “Garry Ringrose has been immense this season, it is a pleasure to play with him and he will keep his feet on the ground,” he said.

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His form must surely merit a place in the Ireland squad for the upcoming November international as he often lit up a game which failed to ignite.

Leinster were far more clinical and left few holes defensively to extend their winning run to four; they’re now second in the Pro12 standings, level on points with Ulster.

“It was quite a cagey game,” Cullen continued. “I thought it was still intense and both teams were going really hard at the ball. That’s the way I always remember these games.

Leinster’s Garry Ringrose Garry Ringrose impressed throughout. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“There were five tries scored out there today. If you go back through the course of history, when was the last time there were five tries scored in a Munster-Leinster game? It’s not that often. There are these tight, arm-wrestle type of games.

“I thought we played the game in the right areas for the most part, we got caught a couple of times but we were okay. We’re working hard on our defence and Stuart [Lancaster] has come in and has done a huge amount of work.

“It’s an evolving process and in phase defence I thought we looked quite aggressive. We contained them quite well.”

So to Leinster the points and the momentum heading into back-to-back European fixtures. Castres provide the first test at the RDS next Saturday before a trip to face another French side, Montpellier.

“I thought we got a good couple of reminders with the tries we let in,” Cullen added, looking ahead to the games against French opposition.

“We gave a lot of yardage which led into Munster’s second try so coming up against two big French teams, it was a good timely reminder for us. It was a good warm-up in terms of Munster filling the field, going hard at the ruck and very hard to play against.”

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Ryan Bailey

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