Friday 21 July 2017

Henshaw will leave if we don't get results - Muldoon

Skipper admits star signings raise pressure on Westerners to lose 'fourth province' tag

Connacht captain John Muldoon admits the province may need to justify Robbie Henshaw's long-term retention in terms of results. Photo: Matt Impey / SPORTSFILE
Connacht captain John Muldoon admits the province may need to justify Robbie Henshaw's long-term retention in terms of results. Photo: Matt Impey / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Connacht captain John Muldoon has conceded that Robbie Henshaw will only commit to a long-term future at the province if their results justify it.

Although rising star Henshaw is committed to his home club until 2016, there had been speculation of a switch to Leinster, particularly as he has been earmarked by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as one of the likely contenders to wear Brian O’Driscoll's vacated No 13 jersey in next year's World Cup.

However, Henshaw has pledged his future to Pat Lam's side – for now. But Portumna man Muldoon admits that his team may need to justify his long-term retention in terms of results.

"There are two sides to it," explained the 31-year-old. "He's a young man and he’s very ambitious for his age, even though his maturity doesn't reflect his age.

"So for him to try to better himself, if he thinks it's outside Connacht, I've no doubt that he would leave if he thought that was the case.

"But on the other hand, if we're getting the results, Robbie won't leave. However, if we don't get the results, we're going to have a bloody hard job to keep him.

"He's on a two-year deal and by that stage if the results aren't going his way, I'm sure he'll seek greener pastures.

"I doubt anything would stop in his way and loyalty only goes so far. I don’t know if the European Cup is the be all and end all. It's about being on the highest stage with Ireland. We could qualify for Europe and perform poorly."

Muldoon himself has remained loyal to Connacht for his entire career, and Lam has rewarded him with the captaincy following the enforced retirement of Craig Clarke.

But he has been prone to reflecting on what might have been had he decided to taste life in a different rugby environment.

"Everybody's different. I don't really know what kept me here, I thought strongly about leaving a couple of times. Do I regret not leaving? Part of me does, but part of me is happy to have stayed," he said.

"I might have liked to have gone to a different set-up but there's always something that drags me home. I'm proud I stayed loyal.

"I would have always come back anyway. Maybe if I was 22 again, I might take the chance on leaving abroad for a year or two."

Connacht enter the new Pro12 season with soaring expectations derived from a variety of sources – a growing phalanx of exciting young back-line talents, the arrival of marquee signings such as Bundee Aki and Mils Muliaina plus the fact that Lam has a full season under his belt.

"We feel like we've progressed a lot," said Muldoon. "Throughout the year, we went back to the drawing-board a couple of times. We threw out a few things that weren't working and added things that seemed to work better for us.

"So we're hopeful there are a lot of good things around the corner.

"Looking at the amount of youngsters who got game-time last year, I'd be looking for a lot of them to step up this year and make the positions their own.

"Mils will be an exciting addition and I'm sure he doesn't just want to be a mentor, he'll want to play.

"When you get someone in of that calibre from the best country in world rugby, you have to stand up and take notice. We're glad to have him on our side instead of playing against us. Because it's usually the case that all the other teams have all the big signings. Ours need to perform and I'm sure they will.

"We completely understand that pressure to get results and it's the same for the young players as well.

"Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion proved that last season that they could build on the form of their breakthrough seasons. And both of them got honoured with caps and rightly so.

"Now we have other young guys who need to step up to the mark. We've lost a lot of experience, with Dan Parks, Gavin Duffy and Craig Clarke leaving in one go.

"So there's even more pressure on the young guys who may have thought they were fringe players. 

"We've been the fourth province for a reason, that's what results have shown, that's what history have shown.

"We haven't always kept the players that we wanted to keep. But that situation has changed over the years. The fact we have more of our own playing with us makes it easy to keep our strongest players.

"Bringing in marquee signings will demand results.

"History won't show who we signed this season, only the games that we won and lost. So we know there's pressure on us. We need to deal with that."

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