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'If there was a Lions team picked now, he'd be the first name in the backline'

Robbie Henshaw delivered another outstanding display as Leinster won the Pro14 last weekend.

Robbie Henshaw is in superb form.
Robbie Henshaw is in superb form.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WHILE SOME OF the other Ireland internationals on the pitch weren’t able to replicate their feats against England the weekend before the Pro14 final, Robbie Henshaw simply picked up where he had left off.

The Leinster centre’s first touch against Munster on Saturday saw him bursting over the gainline with a direct carry from a clever dummy maul play and he barely let up from there.

Henshaw finished Leinster’s title defence having run for 74 metres on his 16 carries, beaten four defenders, made seven tackles, and passed the ball 10 times to show the range of his skillset.

It was the latest superb performance from the Athlone man in a long string of them dating back to the restart of rugby last August. 

Still only 27, Henshaw is playing perhaps the best rugby of his career and looks like a shoo-in to be part of the Lions squad this summer, having already toured New Zealand with the invitational side back in 2017.

Henshaw didn’t get a Test cap back them but Lions boss Warren Gatland will find it hard to leave him out of the side to face the Springboks if Henshaw keeps up his run of form.

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster was thrilled to see Henshaw make such an impactful return to the blue jersey last weekend against Munster and is backing him on the Lions front.

“I don’t think anyone has ever doubted his ability but I think he’s had a consistent run of games and he’s injury-free,” said Lancaster.

“His talent has begun to shine not just within Ireland but within the Northern Hemisphere. There’s no doubt in my mind that if there was a Lions team picked now that he’d be the first name in the backline for sure because of how well he’s playing.”

“That said, Robbie’s very humble, he keeps his feet on the ground, he does his work, he’s diligent and he can play 12 or 13. He loves defending but obviously he’s got a threat at the line as a carrying threat, so he sits down defenders, but he’s a passing threat as well now, so I think his game’s evolved and it’s great working with him.

“He’s really grown his leadership as well, which I guess is another facet to his bow, that he’s coming to his peak.”

johnny-sexton-harry-byrne-ross-byrne-luke-mcgrath-jamison-gibson-park-and-hugh-osullivan-celebrate-with-the-guinness-pro14-after-the-game Leinster's halfbacks with the Pro14 trophy. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Meanwhile, Lancaster said that Leinster are “pretty confident” that out-halves Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne will be fit to feature in Friday’s Champions Cup round-of-16 clash with Toulon at the RDS.

Sexton picked up a head injury after replacing Byrne in the Pro14 final and is now going through the graduated return-to-play protocols. The Leinster captain missed a game during the recent Six Nations due to a head injury.

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Meanwhile, Byrne picked up a knee injury against Munster but did return to play after Sexton’s injury, slotting a penalty as he helped Leinster to see out their win.

His younger brother, Harry, would be next in line for the number 10 shirt but Lancaster indicated that Sexton and Ross Byrne are doing well with their recoveries.

“I’m pretty confident they’ll be fine,” said Lancaster. “Johnny is flying through the protocols, it wasn’t a particularly big incident. He got a bang on the nose.

“Ross trained today. So, he had a bang and there was a bit of a doubt about whether he would train, but he trained and he was fine.

“We’re pretty confident both will be available. That said, if Harry is available we’d be fine with him but we’re pretty confident.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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