Monday 19 February 2018

I'm not just a crash-and-hit player - Henshaw

Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Robbie Henshaw. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

When Robbie Henshaw tackles an opponent, or is himself tackled, the impact can often imitate the brutal force of a minor car crash.

Little wonder, then, that the Irish international centre would seek not necessarily to avoid such collisions but, at the very least, endeavour to develop the occasional alternative to a level of danger to which even crash-test dummies do not submit.

Henshaw's innate talent is such that it does not deserve to be emasculated by the midfield mash-ups that can often physically consume and confine the sport's most gifted exponents.

Slowly, but surely, as Stuart Lancaster has accelerated the development of an all-team, all-court game, the ex-Connacht man's armoured array of skills have come to the fore.

Last Sunday, admittedly where the nearest thing to a car crash on view was Glasgow's lamentable approach to what should have been a sporting contest, Henshaw produced quite the RDS exhibition, notably some sweet passing, the highlight a sweeping 30-metre delivery off his left.

"I'd like to see myself as not just a crash-and-hit player," says Henshaw, whose date against Montpellier tomorrow may challenge his commitment to creation over destruction. "I like to vary my skills.

Rounded

"I try to express myself in terms of being well rounded, have that passing and that distribution game. And being able to be direct, a carrier, as well.

"Sometimes it depends on the situations, the type of game-plan you are playing or the way the opposition are playing.

"It's nice when passes like those come off. Both in the club here and during the international windows we work on our wide passing game, being able to vary our passing game, so it is an asset to have as players to be able to put your outside guys with the wheels into space.

"If it comes off obviously! There are threats of an intercept or a ball going down and the opposition getting a score off it but when it works out and you get that 20- or 30-metre gain, it is always a nice feeling.

"The way we are training at the moment is really enjoyable. We are bringing what we do on the training paddock out onto the pitch and it is always nice to see when things come off. It was a funny enough game to play in actually with all the offloads and that. Both sides were doing it."

That Leinster are now infused with the blistering engines in the fast lane who can be released by the accurate passing pistons inside them has been one factor in transforming the team's game-plan this season.

James Lowe's arrival was anticipated; Jordan Lamour's ascension awaited but surely not as prematurely as it has been. More strings to the sweet-sounding bow, nonetheless.

"It's great," enthuses the 24-year-old. "I'd love to have the wheels Jordan Larmour has. To be honest, it's great; any time either of those players, or even Fergus McFadden, when they get the ball, you know they're going to make something out of nothing.

"Failing that, they'll definitely get you over the gain-line, into space, so for us inside it's a matter of creating space for them, or getting the ball out to them, which worked the last couple of weeks, just getting the boys on the ball early and getting them in space."

The clamour for Lowe and Larmour to remain permanent picks is becoming increasingly louder; Henshaw is not shy in adding his voice to the cheer-leading choir.

"Yeah, definitely, I think for new players coming in, it's vital you get them in, they know how the team plays, how each player plays. It's about getting that combination and getting the relationships.

"In a game it's completely different to what you do in training, and you find out different traits from different players.

"Jordan has really settled in, so has James, I think they've taken it in their stride, and they've gotten better and better each game they've played."

Ironically, while Leinster's twin semi-final failures last season were marked by an inability to expand their game, their sloppy exit work in the first quarter last weekend reminds one that sometimes they have to curb their enthusiasm.

"Our execution wasn't the best, so definitely we'll work on improving that," agrees Henshaw, who argues that balance can aid their occasionally shaky exit strategy.

"I think we can potentially have a look to go again at them from the deep. We need to just play what's on and play to our strengths, and play smartly."

Irish Independent

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