Henshaw believes Leinster can 'go all the way' in the Champions Cup
The Ireland international was superb for Leo Cullen’s side in the draw against Castres.

LEINSTER’S PERFORMANCE IN Castres on Friday night opens up a few questions about their true quality, but it hasn’t dented Robbie Henshaw’s belief that they are good enough to win the Champions Cup.

Leo Cullen’s men were disappointingly error-prone at Stade Pierre Antoine as they made their route to a home quarter-final just a little less comfortable by drawing 24-24.

Robbie Henshaw scores a try despite Julien Dumora James Crombie / INPHO Henshaw scored two tries against Castres. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

They can, of course, now look forward to a home quarter-final in April, when Wasps will come to the Aviva Stadium for what should be a thrilling tie.

Head coach Cullen will hope that the failure to deliver in Castres will be a lesson for his side moving forward.

Henshaw admitted afterwards that Leinster were not pleased, although he did point out that holding the French side out from getting a winning score at the death showed grit.

“The heads were down a bit in the dressing room after, that we didn’t grind out the win,” said Henshaw. “But we showed unbelievable character to hold them out at the end. Our defensive effort was better in the second half, so it was good.”

Having beaten Montpellier, Zebre and Ulster in recent weeks, the perception around Leinster had been highly positive once again.

But they lost defensive structure and quality in the tackle against Castres, while frustratingly also failing to turn a string of clean linebreaks into points. Which is the real Leinster?

Henshaw is certain that the province merely had a blip last weekend and he feels they are good enough to go on and win this tournament.

“I think we can go all the way,” said Henshaw. “We showed that in a load of areas in this competition. We are getting better and better and the strength and depth in the squad is unbelievable.

Robbie Henshaw scores a try 20/1//2017 Tommy Dickson / INPHO Henshaw beats Julien Dumora to the tryline. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“We turn the page now and we go away to Six Nations camp. The lads have a week off and we keep a close eye on the Pro12. We have a bit of work to do there too and then after the Six Nations there is one game in the Pro12 and then back to the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

“We have to keep eyes on both competitions but this team is an exceptional team and it’s great to be playing with them.”

On a personal level, Friday night might have been Henshaw’s best performance in a Leinster shirt. While others around him made mistakes, the Ireland centre was simply superb on both sides of the ball.

He got over the whitewash for his first Leinster try in the opening half and added a powerful second after the break. With his team having lost Johnny Sexton and captain Isa Nacewa in the first 40 minutes, Henshaw needed to step up.

“It’s a tough scenario when two of our leaders go off, of that calibre as well,” said Henshaw. “The two lads are exceptional players, but yeah we got together. Jamie Heaslip took over the ship under the posts when they scored.

“And he said that we were being a bit frantic in terms of loose possession and getting turned over a bit and we just went back to doing the basics. We came back in the second half and we just listened to our leader, Jamie, and we ground it out in the end.”

That first Leinster try was a sweet moment for Henshaw, who had to sprint home on a diagonal line from more than 45 metres out, just about beating Montpellier out-half Julien Dumora to the line.

Robbie Henshaw breaks free to score a try James Crombie / INPHO Henshaw has been superb for Leinster this season. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“I knew I had the angle, so I just kept going for the corner flag and I knew with my momentum I could get a fend on him if he was going to catch me, and just bounce over,” said Henshaw.

“My sprint technique went out the window towards the end but I’ll take it. My first score, I was waiting a while for it and I was getting a bit of slagging off the lads that I hadn’t got over yet, but it was great to have the result.”

No one can slag Henshaw’s form this season for Leinster, as he continues to grow in importance to Cullen’s team.

Having taken the big leap in moving from Connacht to Leinster last summer, Henshaw is convinced that he is now a better player.

“It’s definitely improved my rugby, it’s definitely brought me on on the pitch as well. It’s great the lads can ask questions, I ask them questions as well and it’s a great environment to be involved in.

“We are always learning, we are always getting better on the pitch and we are solving equations, so it’s great to be involved and I feel like I am getting better as a player.”

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