It flew under the radar a fortnight ago, but up until the Thursday before Leinster’s European semi-final win over Toulouse, Robbie Henshaw was in bed sick.
For a man who has already missed a large chunk of action this season, Henshaw did everything he could to play his part. That he managed 64 impressive minutes is a testament to his character.
“I was pretty grim, just with a flu,” Henshaw recalled.
“I got out of bed for the captain’s run on Friday and I felt somewhat better and then felt better on Saturday. But yeah, I was definitely struggling for air in that game, even though I just kind of dug deep, just kept the head down and tried to get on with it the best I could.
“I rewatched The Last Dance again recently and it was an episode where Michael Jordan was violently ill for one of the play-off games and I had that kind of thought that it got him through.
“In parts he was out on his feet and then towards the end he just found a way, and that’s what I was kind of thinking of as well.”
Fuelled by Jordan’s never-say-die attitude, Henshaw (28) took a leaf out of the basketball legend’s book, and the Ireland centre is hoping to do so again in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.
“It’s probably just to win at all costs, isn’t it?” Henshaw said of Jordan’s steely mindset. “It’s a final, we need to just do what we can to win and if it’s ugly, it’s ugly. Whatever way the game unfolds. Looking back to the last time we were in the final and we came out winners, it was Racing (in 2018) and it wasn’t the prettiest game by any means, but we got it done.
“It’s what we set out to do at the start of the year. But we’ll definitely have a tough task ahead of us in terms of La Rochelle being there last year. They’ve good experience and probably being top seeds in the competition, they really have a good style of rugby, they’re hard to break down, they’ve a great defence, really strong at the breakdown.”
Henshaw only briefly crossed paths with Ronan O’Gara in the Ireland squad, but he is looking forward to unpicking his La Rochelle defence.
“I spent one camp with him, I was brought in to train for the last Six Nations he was involved in. I trained with him. That would have been the only time. I played against him a few times as well, down in Musgrave Park, I played against him once.
“It was good. It was about 10 years ago now, I’m showing my age. He was good, he was a quality player, really good on the ball, nice and calm, a nice guy as well, he would give time to the younger lads, chat away with you, ask stuff. He was sound.”
As Leinster head into the biggest game of the season, their chances of adding a fifth star to their jersey will be significantly enhanced by Henshaw looking fresh physically. After an injury-disrupted campaign, he is ready for a big conclusion, by building on strong showings in the wins over Connacht, Leicester and Toulouse.
“It’s kind of how I visualised the end of the season going, finishing the season strong personally was definitely one of my goals,” the Athlone native added.
“Certainly after dropping out of games and picking up niggles here and there, it was a slow start to the year.
“So yeah, it’s been strong personally for me and it’s been good on that note.
“It wasn’t the start I wanted coming off the back of a great year for me. But again, you have to get on with it and try to get back to where you were.
“So yeah, I’m in the process of staying positive and keep building towards the end.”