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Size matters, but Henshaw knows it's not the be all and end all of centre play


Robbie Henshaw

Robbie Henshaw

Robbie Henshaw

Standing as he does at 6ft 4ins and weighing in at 105kg (16st, 6lbs), Robbie Henshaw is more than capable of thriving in the land of the big beasts.

Rarely, if ever, will he have come up against a centre partnership as big as the one he and Garry Ringrose are likely to face on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.

He's played against Damian de Allende at international level, while he's trained with Chris Farrell in Ireland camp so he knows what's coming from Munster's bash brothers.

Given no one has played any rugby in almost five months, there is little room for video analysis in the preparations this week.

And when it comes to lining up opposite a pair as big and as skilful as De Allende and Farrell, Henshaw is prepared to meet fire with fire.

"I suppose the one thing that stands out about playing the two lads is probably physicality and gain-line. That would be No 1 in our minds," Henshaw said.

"It's probably trying to stop them at the gain-line, not let them get front-foot ball.

"The big challenge for us is we haven't seen them, we haven't done any analysis so we don't know what they're going to bring … definitely we can expect something different.

"That's one of the challenges; we're playing teams who have had a lot of time to restructure their game-plans and their plays, so we need to be really sharp and ready for different types of attacks and different pictures they will present to us."

Size matters in the modern game, but Henshaw believes there is a lot more to centre play than being able to bash your way over the gain-line repeatedly.

"You look at the likes of Saracens who beat us last year in the Champions Cup final, they have Brad Barritt and Alex Lozowski, like they're not a huge centre partnership but they're quite effective," he said.

"It varies from team to team. Munster, for how they play, the physicality aspect is going to be huge for them.

"But I think if you look around, even at New Zealand teams, their centres ... like, Jack Goodhue isn't huge. But they're so effective at what they do.

"I don't think it's gone, 'You have to be 108 kilos to be the 12'.

"A lot of the game is changing a little bit, but it definitely has that variety whereas you have big players in the centre, so teams have big players, but not huge.

"We play different teams with different varieties of centres.

"You have to be ready for a centre who is really good on his feet, who is sharp and who can be a good distributor as well as a good side-stepper and win contacts through footwork and not just through running straight and being a big man.

"I think sometimes the more agile and quicker centre can be trickier for a defence to deal with."

Facing De Allende one-on-one is an opportunity for Henshaw to lay an early claim to a Lions spot at the end of the long season.

Handling the Cape Town native will be part of the job description when he's starting against the tourists next summer and, having toured New Zealand with the Lions in 2017, Henshaw is eager to work his way into Warren Gatland's plans.

"It's definitely one of my goals. It's probably the pinnacle of the sport," he said as he launched Canterbury's new Ireland jersey.

"Every player's goal would be to be on a Lions tour - 100 per cent. I'm definitely hungry to try and get more of that but I suppose the hard work starts now in terms of how you build up through a season, and how you can sustain and keep improving your performances to make sure the coaches see you doing well, and make sure you put your hand up."

At 27, Henshaw wants to kick on with his career after an injury-plagued couple of seasons.

"I know I've had a few injuries in the past, but I think I kind of know what works for me and how my body works now.