'It's been a bit of a rocky one for me' - Henshaw looking to finish frustrating season on a high

The centre has only managed a handful of appearances for club and country since returning from the Lions tour to South Africa.

Robbie Henshaw came off the bench in Paris.
Robbie Henshaw came off the bench in Paris.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE HIGHS AND lows of professional sport. Last year Robbie Henshaw was the golden boy of Irish rugby, playing the best rugby of his career with the graph only heading in one direction.

He started all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa and took all the individual awards on offer back home, the centre named Men’s Players’ Player of the Year by his peers at the 2021 Irish Rugby Players Awards before adding the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year to his mantlepiece.

So far, this season has been less enjoyable for a 28-year-old who is now recognised as a genuine world class talent.

His Leinster stats boil down to just 203 minutes of rugby spread across three appearances in November, December and January, with the province’s Covid-disrupted fixture calendar not helping matters.

He featured just once in the November internationals, getting 66 minutes into his lungs against Argentina having sat out the New Zealand win. The stop-start nature of his season carried into the Six Nations, Henshaw not making the matchday squad for the opening round win against Wales before being sprung off the bench for the final 17 minutes in Paris last week.

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a rocky one for me this year,” Henshaw says.

I feel fresh, to be honest, so I’m ready to go. I’ve been training away the last couple of weeks and I’m ready to step forward now. Obviously the stop-start season for me hasn’t been ideal, but I’m hoping for a stronger finish to the second half of the season.

“The body feels good, mentally I feel good, I feel sharp, so it’s exciting.”

Yet even for a player of Henshaw’s quality, the route to the Ireland starting team is no easy path. It’s arguably the most competitive area across Andy Farrell’s squad, with Garry Ringrose and Bundee Aki both going well across the opening two weekend and Ulster’s James Hume also throwing his hat into ring. 

“It’s about waiting for your opportunity first and foremost,” Henshaw explains.

bundee-aki-and-robbie-henshaw Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw during an Ireland training session today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The lads are going really well, fair play to them. It’s been a good start and they’ve been building. But for me it’s just sticking to my process and what’s worked for me. I have big confidence in that. So don’t try to force things, just do the right thing in training and stay positive. All I can worry about is me, and making sure I do the right thing.”

That was more or less the message he received from Farrell before entering the fire at the Stade de France, a testing environment for a player looking to find his feet at this level again.

“We spoke briefly and it was just to make sure I was ready to go, add value wherever you can, don’t try and stand out and do it all yourself.

“It was more to bring energy once you come into the game towards the end and make sure you really show you lift it with energy. It’s the same for all the subs. They are basically the energisers when they come on, that’s a huge role for everyone coming off the bench.”

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With Farrell releasing a number of players back to the provinces this weekend, Henshaw has remained with the Ireland squad as he looks to get his season back on track and add to his 54 Test caps.

And while a Grand Slam is no longer on the cards, Henshaw still feels there is a championship to play for.

“Obviously a disappointing result for us (in France). We’ve all looked back through it a good few times now, both together and individually.

“We had a good meeting yesterday and it was tough to watch, because we definitely felt we had them.

“The most frustrating thing was probably just not executing and taking those opportunities, but again, to spin it on a positive it’s probably just another step on the journey, so it’s how we learn from it and how we kick on and turn it into a positive.”

Gavan Casey is joined by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella to discuss the prospect of South Africa replacing Italy in the Six Nations and reflect on Ireland’s performance in Paris, before looking ahead to the URC action this weekend.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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