Saturday 21 October 2017

Irish eyes on Henshaw's audition at 13 for Connacht

Robbie Henshaw moves from full-back to outside-centre
Robbie Henshaw moves from full-back to outside-centre
Conor George

Conor George

EVERY time one of the Irish provinces mix up their midfield, it is suggested the wearer of the No 13 shirt is auditioning.

Robbie Henshaw is the latest to be cast in that role as he moves from full-back to outside-centre, with everyone in Ireland assessing the talent coming through to fill the vacancy that will be created when Brian O'Driscoll steps down.

Henshaw's deployment in the centre makes room for Gavin Duffy in tonight's game against Cardiff at the Arms Park, where John Muldoon makes his 200th appearance for the province.

Muldoon joined Connacht in 2004 and has spent his entire professional career with the club. It's not always been easy being with a club who have struggled more than others with the transition from amateur to professional.

"I am very proud I am from Connacht and it has been a tough place to be," Muldoon said.

"I have been around a long time and had good relations with both Eric (Elwood) and Brads (Michael Bradley), but when a new coach comes in, you have to knuckle down because he is going to give everyone a fair crack of the whip.

"I had a disruptive year last year with injury and loss of form towards the end of the season, but I have drawn a line under that and come back refreshed," he said.

Eyes

Muldoon is part of an unchanged pack from that which played against Zebre last weekend as all eyes will be on Henshaw to see how he performs at outside-centre.

The 20-year-old only made his Connacht debut last December, but his impact yielded an Ireland senior debut against the US Eagles during the summer tour to North America and his international value will skyrocket if he displays the skill-set to be a success at 13.

The other change to the Connacht side sees Tiernan O'Halloran, who came on from the bench last Saturday, start on the right wing with Danie Poolman named among the replacements.

For their part, Cardiff have made three changes to the side that lost to Glasgow Warriors last weekend. Andres Pretorious makes his 50th appearance for the side, while Lion Alex Cuthbert and Dafydd Hewitt make their first starts this term.

"We are coming up against a very good team in Connacht and they have brought in some very talented players," said Cardiff's Phil Davies.

"Pat Lam has taken over the coaching, so I think there will be a slightly different emphasis in terms of the style of rugby they adopt. It will be a big challenge."

CARDIFF BLUES – T Williams; A Cuthbert, O Williams, D Hewitt, H Robinson; R Patchell, L Williams; T Filise, M Rees, S Andrews, B Davies, F Paulo, A Pretorius, J Navidi, R Copeland. Reps: K Dacey, S Hobbs, B Bourrust, L Reed, M Cook, L Jones, G Davies, G Evans.

Connacht – G Duffy; T O'Halloran, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White, M Swift, A Browne, J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu. Repls: S Henry, R Ah You, R Loughney, A Muldowney, J Heenan, P O'Donohoe, C Ronaldson, D Poolman.

Cardiff v Connacht,

Live, TG4/BBC2 Wales, 7.05

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