Henshaw 'feeling good' about Ringrose partnership
Robbie Henshaw is adjusting well to life as the elder statesman in his blossoming midfield partnership with Garry Ringrose.
It's a role that Henshaw (pictured) hasn't played that often but he has learned from some pretty experienced campaigners.
Not that Ringrose needs much of a helping hand, mind you. Just 19 months separate the pair and if their performance in Franklin's Gardens last week was anything to go by, then they will go on to fulfil everything that is expected of them.
"It's going really well with Garry," Henshaw enthused. "It was great to have him in (Ireland) camp as well. I was closer to him for a few weeks in the November period. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play with him against Australia.
"He is getting better and better and we're finding out more about each other as the weeks go on. The relationship is growing. We have a good feeling from one another and he is exceptional player.
"Garry is a natural 13. He is unbelievable at what he does. I love to get the ball into his hands and let him do his thing, let him beat a few players and make a few line-breaks. It's working well and, hopefully, it will continue to work throughout the year."
Northampton arrive in Dublin this evening in total disarray and their team selection would suggest that their focus has already switched to improving on their lowly ninth place in the Premiership.
That is not to say that Jim Mallinder's men will roll over in the same manner that most French teams do when their European race is run, but Leinster are hitting form at just the right time.
Zane Kirchner replaces the injured Rob Kearney at full-back, while out-half Ross Byrne is handed his first European start.
Before Joey Carbery came along and so brilliantly hogged the limelight, it was Byrne who was widely regarded as the next in line to Johnny Sexton. Injuries however, have stunted his progress.
"When I saw him first in school I saw the similarities (with Sexton)," Leo Cullen said.
"Even in terms of body shape - they are taller guys. He has a very strong kicking game and he has good game management sense as well and good presence on the field.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him play at the Aviva. He has played a lot of big games in terms of underage and he has got a good temperament."
JJ Hanrahan has shrugged off an ankle problem to start on Irish soil. The Munster-bound playmaker impressed last week and will be desperate to do so again this evening.
"I thought he was sharp," Henshaw said of Hanrahan's performance in his side's thumping defeat.
"He set up their try in the first half off the scrum and put your man away in the corner. Yeah, he was sharp. I'm sure he'll be pumped, ready to go again.
"I played him a bit underage. I played against him at Munster a couple of times. Yeah, I'd know him quite well. We need to be sharp on our feet to defend their threats in the midfield."
For all changes that Northampton have made, Cullen wasn't buying into the notion that they are a weaker proposition than the side that grossly underperformed in front of their own supporters.
Cullen may not agree but few would argue that the Saints are a stronger outfit without Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Louis Picamoles and Luther Burrell.
"I see it as internationals replacing internationals," Cullen insisted.
"Sometimes it's best having the freshest and the hungriest guys to play but I think it is better just to focus on ourselves at this stage.
"We've looked at a lot of these Northampton players the last few weeks so we are well prepped. It's going to be a tough challenge."
It may well be a tough challenge but it shouldn't be one that dents Leinster's quest for a home quarter-final.
Leinster - Z Kirchner; A Byrne, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, I Nacewa (capt); R Byrne, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, R Furlong; D Toner, H Triggs; S O'Brien, J van der Flier, J Heaslip. Reps: J Tracy, C Healy, M Bent, R Ruddock, J Conan, J Gibson-Park, N Reid, R O'Loughlin.
Northampton Saints - A Tuala; K Pisi, George Pisi (capt), JJ Hanrahan, T Collins; St Myler, N Groom; E Waller, C Clare, K Brookes; A Ratuniyarawa, J Craig; J Gibson, C Clark, T Harrison. Reps: J Fish, A Waller, P Hill, M Paterson, B Nutley, T Kessell, R Hutchinson, J Wilson.
REF - R Poite (France)
Leinster v Northampton Saints,
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