Henshaw starts at 12 for the Lions again today. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Henshaw the pride of Athlone as he readies himself for Boks backlash

The 28-year-old was cheered on by a big crowd back home last weekend.

FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND club folk gathered outdoor at Buccaneers RFC in Athlone last weekend with a great deal of pride as Robbie Henshaw helped the Lions to victory over the Springboks on what was his Test debut for the touring side.

There was a kids’ tag rugby blitz beforehand at Buccs and there’s little doubt that many of them were imagining being in Henshaw’s shoes and wearing a Lions jersey. The 28-year-old is a role model to every rugby-playing youngster back home.

Sky Sports were there to do a piece with Henshaw’s family and a few Buccaneers heads about his journey to being a Test Lion and it was sent on to the Ireland international this week along with loads of nice photos and touching messages.

Henshaw jokes that his granddad has been very keen to get interviewed and share his own views, but it meant a lot to him that there was such pride about his achievement. There will be lots more excitement today as Henshaw starts against the Springboks again.

“I enjoyed it,” says Henshaw as he reflects on the first Test. “There were a few balls in the air that just got away from me in front and if I can get that back on our side a few more times, we’re in good positions.

“So definitely some of the aerial stuff I can get better at and that carry in the first half where the ball just gets knocked out in my hands. If I can hold that we’re in a good position and applying good pressure.

“All in all, I was happy with the first Test in a Lions jersey and I enjoyed it. Again, it wasn’t perfect but I’m looking to build on it and get better.”

robbie-henshaw-loses-the-ball-as-he-is-tackled-by-willie-le-roux Henshaw was frustrated with a first-half error. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Henshaw’s linebreak just before half-time was one of only two that the Lions had in an edgy, tight, kick-heavy Test and he was frustrated to lose the ball forward as Springboks fullback Willie Le Roux made an excellent track-back tackle.

“Ball in two hands I would say for me, not leaving it in one hand,” says Henshaw by way of analysis of the incident.

“He probably blindsided me just as I was about to pass and it got spilled out. Maybe if I had it in two hands, he might not have got it and I might have just fed Ali [Price] on the inside or dropped it on my foot to [kick to] the boys on the right.

“Again, a very fast moment in the game and it flashes by very quickly. If in doubt, just carry and recycle it.

“It was our first time getting into the 22 in the first half and I probably just forced it a little bit. I just needed to be calm. There were a lot of moving parts in there and it was my first bit of space to get. It’s a review I watched a good bit – so probably just be a bit calmer in the next scenario I get and make sure I hold the ball.”

While Henshaw would like that moment back, his contributions for the Lions also including some superb moments in defence and seven strong carries in midfield.

He is expecting an even bigger test from the Springboks in today’s second Test and he has some experience of a South African backlash.

The Athlone man was part of the Ireland squad who beat the Boks in their first Test of a three-game series in South Africa in 2016 before losing the second and third. 

gregor-townsend-with-robbie-henshaw Henshaw with Lions attack coach Gregor Townsend. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It just stands out to me because it was a bit of a different game, to be honest, it was more of a running game, the first game,” says Henshaw.

“Then we flew it in the first half of the second Test but the Springboks caught up and overturned us.

“I remember Damian De Allende scoring a try after that Ruan Combrinck break down the right-hand side. It just shows their physicality. They can pull something out of nothing if you’re not switched on.

“If you fall off or you’re not ready for a hit, they are able to run over you. That was a big thing that stood out.

“Then it went on to the third Test and they beat us quite narrowly. I just think it stands out to me that they will come back from an upset and we need to be ready for that. We need to be across our work and ready for them to bring something different.”

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