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'I see myself as one of the older fellas': Influx of youth strenghtening Henshaw's leadership

The 24-year-old is happy to learn and teach to knit Ireland’s back-line together.

WHEN JORDAN LARMOUR is sprung from the bench to win his first international cap against Italy this afternoon (kick-off 14.15, TV3), Robbie Henshaw will be keeping a watchful eye, prepared to shepherd his first steps onto the biggest stage.

It’s only odd to consider Henshaw one of the senior men in this Ireland squad if you tally such things by age alone.

The 24-year-old is a hardened veteran.

It’s not just the physicality Henshaw brings to Ireland’s midfield, it’s five years worth of experience in the environment.

Robbie Henshaw Henshaw at Ireland training during the 2013 SIx Nations. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

He predates Joe Schmidt as a Carton House resident, called in by Declan Kidney in 2013 to learn from Brian O’Driscoll. Henshaw played a part in that year’s U20 Six Nations campaign before earning his first Test cap on Les Kiss’ watch the following summer.

It’s that experience which Henshaw credits for the unquestionable leadership qualities he exudes on the field. From heroic fire-fighting days like Chicago, to a relentless willingness to run into brick walls to gain mere inches against teams closer to home. He has never used his age as a reason to defer responsibility.

“I see myself as one of the older fellas now,” says Henshaw when asked if the spritely new breed are making him check for grey hairs.

“It’s great to be able to look back and remember the days when I came in. I know the seat they’re sitting in now, I’ve been there. So I help them out and just make sure they’re comfortable and they know everything coming in.”

“I’ve been in since I was 19-years-of-age, quite young, and I’ve been around now for a while.”

As a centre-turned-fullback-turned centre again, Henshaw may find more comparisons in Larmour than just a recollection of his rookie status. Indeed, the former St Andrew’s man was brought in to dip a toe in the Carton House culture that season, and that’s where his provincial team-mate really took notice of him.

“Straight away, he caught my eye. Just seeing him rise so rapidly, he’s played exceptionally well. He’s loving being in camp and being involved. He’s learned a lot being in the setup.

When he gets the ball in space, he can create something. He can create something out of nothing as well. He’s an exciting player and he’s able to distribute in the wider channels.

“He has a really good feel for when to go and when to let it go. He’s only going to get better now as a player. Being involved now, it’s a test for him and the work he’s put in.”

Jordan Larmour Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There may be a test in store for Henshaw when Larmour takes the field too. As with any good leader, the Athlone man feels he has plenty left to learn. He is keen to improve the balance between his commanding physical presence and being a vocal one too.

The deeds come easy, the words need a little push.

I’ve been challenged by people to make that step up, that: ‘you’re no longer inexperienced, you can lead a little bit more’.

“I’ve been trying to take on that role now, to be a leader through my actions as well as my voice and that’s been a bit of a change.”

Helping him out in that regard, is a man who had to wait until November to make his international debut, though Bundee Aki’s rugby education has been on a fast track for far, far longer than that.

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Henshaw speaks in glowing terms about his one-time Connacht and now international midfield partner’s abiltiy to constantly check in with simple messages that have strong knock-on effects.

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“He is always asking ‘What can we do better’ and he’s always looking for information.

“Whoever Bundee plays with, they know he’s a different type of player – in terms of how vocal he is and how he is always looking to get help from what other guys are seeing and what is being presented in front of him. That’s the type of player he is and he has been very successful with whoever he plays with. They enjoy his company.

When there were breaks in play (last week in Paris), we’d always team up and come around. He’d say, “What are we doing? What can we do better?”

“He’s always looking to get better and that’s how he plays.”

Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That drive to keep going and improving will be important all over the field today as an exciting Italian team comes to visit, hoping to catch Ireland in the sort of form displayed in the first 77 minutes of last Saturday’s opener.

The efficiency and accuracy of the five minutes that followed have done more than paper over cracks for Ireland, Johnny Sexton’s iconic drop-goal has injected momentum into the campaign. A win is expected today, but the manner of victory can put extra weight behind last weekend’s match-turning magic.


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“The Six Nations is all about creating momentum, gathering points,” says captain Rory Best, who must raise a 35-year-old eyebrow at Henshaw installing himself as one of the elder statemen in the group.

“I think it’s pointless of us to throw in a cliché (like) you take it one game at a time, but if you don’t do it this week… it’s easy to say it going into the France game but these are the games that you really show if it is one game at a time.

”For us, it is to make sure that we take this game in isolation and we try to produce a bigger performance than we had last week and try to keep that momentum and keep the wins column ticking over.”

The wins column, and all going well, the tries scored and points difference columns too.

Ireland

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Iain Henderson
5. Devin Toner
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Andrew Porter
19. Quinn Roux
20. CJ Stander
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Joey Carbery
23. Jordan Larmour

Italy

15. Matteo Minozzi
14. Tommaso Benvenuti
13. Tommaso Boni
12. Tommaso Castello
11. Mattia Bellini
10. Tommaso Allan
9. Marcello Violi

1. Nicola Quaglio
2. Luca Bigi
3. Simone Ferrari
4. Alessandro Zanni
5. Dean Budd
6. Sebastien Negri
7. Braam Steyn
8. Sergio Parisse (captain)

Replacements:

16. Leonardo Ghiraldini
17. Andrea Lovotti
18. Tiziano Pasquali
19. Federico Ruzza
20. Maxime Mata Mbanda
21. Edoardo Gori
22. Carlo Canna

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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