Saturday 24 February 2018

Robbie Henshaw taps into experience and knowledge of ex-Lions captain O'Driscoll

Robbie Henshaw, pictured, has tapped into Brian O'Driscoll's British and Irish Lions knowledge
Robbie Henshaw, pictured, has tapped into Brian O'Driscoll's British and Irish Lions knowledge

Ireland star Robbie Henshaw will be armed with words of wisdom from former British and Irish Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll when he heads to New Zealand next week.

Henshaw is among an 11-strong Irish contingent in Lions head coach Warren Gatland's 41-man squad for a demanding assignment headlined by three Tests against the world champion All Blacks.

Ex-Ireland skipper O'Driscoll led the Lions on their last New Zealand mission 12 years ago, but his Test series lasted only a few minutes after he was spear-tackled, suffering a dislocated shoulder and spending several months sidelined.

O'Driscoll went on four successive Lions tours between 2001 and 2013, playing in eight Tests, and his experience and knowledge is key for a first-timer like Ireland and Leinster centre Henshaw.

"I had a brief chat with Brian O'Driscoll a few weeks ago, just caught up with him to see how he's getting on and staying in touch with him a little bit," Henshaw said.

"It was good to pick his brain a little bit in terms of his experience.

"I was looking at his past tours, and he's been on four, which is an incredible amount. He's good to go to for a few tips and to get his experience on it.

"He said, 'Step out of your comfort zone, enjoy it and just go out and play, do your best. It's a massive privilege to be involved in a tour, so don't let is pass you by'. He said, 'Just back yourself'.

"I remember getting up incredibly early for the last Lions tour of New Zealand, watching those games. The Australia tour, the South Africa tour, I remember them all.

"The earliest memories are probably when Keith Wood was playing, I can't tell you what age I was. I was pretty young. My uncle (David Henshaw) played with Keith, so I remember pinpointing him on the team and remembering him.

"It is an unbelievable experience (to be involved with the Lions), and it's a privilege to be involved here. When it gets down to it, I am really looking forward to getting on the pitch with the boys and doing what we do best."

Henshaw reported for Lions duty in County Kildare on Sunday, some 48 hours after Leinster lost to Guinness PRO12 play-off opponents the Scarlets.

And he looked to hit the ground running, with the Lions departing for New Zealand in just six days' time and their opening game against a Provincial Barbarians XV looming on Saturday week.

"Once you are in the thick of it, you're so busy, you are looking at your schedule and there is so much going on," the 23-year-old added.

"I prefer it that way, to be busy and just worrying about and focusing on what I have next and on what I have to do to improve as a player.

"In the international set-up, we are used to playing with the players we've been playing with for the last few years. So going into a new set-up and new environment with new players is a breath of fresh air, and I am really excited about it.

"I am here to back myself to go on and try and get into the Test team. I will do the best I can to put my hand up for selection. Just train away, put in the hard work now, focus on the now and what happens with selection happens.

"If I get my chance, I will do my best to perform.

"The body is in good shape - it's not too banged up. I am feeling pretty fit at the moment and the body's feeling good for what was a long season."

Press Association

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