With Robbie Henshaw now on the books, Leinster's back line for next season looks tasty
Now that his future is no longer a source of speculation or uncertainty, perhaps it’s a good time to have a closer look at just how Robbie Henshaw will fit into Leo Cullen’s formative Leinster side.
As soon as Robbie Henshaw declared on Sunday that he would not be staying at Connacht beyond the end of the current season, it felt like a matter of when and not if, the 22-year-old committed his future to the eastern province.
And so he has. Henshaw joins a Leinster side still struggling to fully recover from Joe Schmidt’s departure and the temporary sojourns elsewhere of Isa Nacewa and Johnny Sexton. A horrendous European campaign has been somewhat mitigated by a relatively strong showing in the Pro 12.
And, when considering the talent conveyor belt and academy the province has at its disposal, as well as the crop of seasoned internationals embedded in the ranks, Henshaw’s arrival may well be the catalyst for another generation of sustained success.
Here we look at the backline that Cullen and Co may call on next season
15. Isa Nacewa
A bona fide legend at the RDS, since answering Cullen’s klaxon call to return to Dublin Nacewa has shown glimpses of the magic that made his so.
It’s no secret that Rob Kearney’s general play and overall contribution has steadily declined of late and, simply put, the Louth man lacks Nacewa’s footballing nous and eye for a gap. Not a long term ploy with Nacewa turning 34 in July but, for now, the right one. Henshaw, too, is worth consideration there, but’s for a another day.
14. Dave Kearney
Kearney the younger faces competition from Zane Kirchner and Fergus McFadden for the 14 jersey but just about shades it. A stout and aggressive defender who compensates for his lack of searing pace with a never-say-die approach to taking contact; he ekes out every available inch with ball in hand.
13. Garry Ringrose
It’s the prospect of he and Henshaw lining out in midfield together for the Blues and Ireland over the next decade that has eased some of the down-trodden atmosphere which has permeated the game here of late.
Ringrose can only benefit from the type of front foot ball Henshaw’s carrying will provide him. If the pair can find a rapport, the partnership may replicate that of D’Arcy and O’Driscoll. The Dubliner’s balletic step and powerful thrust would perfectly compliment the Athlone man’s physical edge and growing game intelligence.
12. Robbie Henshaw
There are those who still feel that Henshaw was shoehorned into first centre to suit Joe Schmidt’s purposes for Ireland. And there remains a train of thought that he should be deployed in the number 13 or 15 jerseys and, to be fair, it has some merit.
Such is his talent and, indeed, youth, the Buccaneers club man may find himself occupying various roles over the course of that promises to be a glittering career. Pace, power, guile and diligence tend to make for quality players.
11. Luke Fitzgerald
The injury hex that hit Ireland towards the end of the World Cup has reappeared for the Six Nations, though few have suffered more than Fitzgerald. He hot fine form upon returning to Leinster, only to twist his knee during a public training session a week before Ireland faced Wales.
Henshaw’s arrival will be a strange one for the 28-year-old, because it was in the number 12 jersey that he was distinguishing himself since October. Still, if he can remain fit, his acceleration and step should be utilised to great affect on the left wing. All he has to do is stay healthy.
10. Jonathan Sexton
Despite the continued concern about his well-being, Sexton has looked more like his old self since the Six Nations got underway. An indifferent and listless resumption of his duties at Leinster seem to have been put behind him, particularly after his man of the match performance against the Ospreys.
Playing regularly with Henshaw can only be good for Sexton, Leinster and Ireland, and perhaps the youngster will take his place as first up tackler when the midfield juggernauts come hurtling down the channel.
9. Luke McGrath
The 23-year has had to be patient for concentrated game time but clocked some significant mileage this season. He’s banked European Cup experience, albeit mainly on the losing side, but has more than held his own. A crafty operator, with a swift delivery and, with Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss both well into their fourth decades, McGrath represents the future.