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'Mils will be a great mentor - I can't wait to pick his brains'


Robbie Henshaw pictured alongside Mils Muliaina in Galway last week. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Robbie Henshaw pictured alongside Mils Muliaina in Galway last week. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE


Robbie Henshaw pictured alongside Mils Muliaina in Galway last week. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Whether it was club, colleges or provincial rugby, I always hated the wait to get back on the playing field as the new season approached.

So the fact that I missed out on the Irish tour of Argentina through injury, have gone through a rigorous pre-season and have to wait another week for my first game of the season has me primed. I can't wait to get back into the thick of it.

Because of the international player welfare programme I won't be involved in tomorrow's season-opener against the Dragons at the Sportsground, but I'll be keen to see how the lads go.

When I look back at the last 12 months of my career, I have to be really delighted with how things have progressed for me. I'm where I wanted to be: I have forced my way into the Connacht side as a regular starter and I was also involved in every national camp.

I made an appearance against Australia last November as a replacement and I don't think I was too far away from getting another run out either. But just getting the chance to train under Joe Schmidt and to work alongside Brian O'Driscoll was invaluable. I learned so much from that experience.


There was plenty said about Brian being my mentor last year and the fact that I was shadowing him in training, but I can honestly say it was an incredible experience.

From the start he welcomed me with open arms. He took individual sessions with me, gave me things to work on and told me where I could improve. He pretty much opened his playbook to me, which was an amazing help.

It's really good to have someone like that, someone that you can just pick up the phone and ask for some advice. When it comes from a player who has mastered it, you'll always listen.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the influence Dan Parks had on all of us young lads though. It was Dan who settled me into my first season in professional rugby and he took me in under his wing. He was always in my ear during games, he'd point me in the right direction, Dan Parks is really the person who gave me my confidence.

It shows the importance of having experienced players on your team. That's one reason why we are all looking forward to playing with Mils so much this year. He'll have some amount of experience to share, so surely we can only improve with him in the team too.

I must say, it was pretty frustrating to miss out on the Irish tour to Argentina, though. I felt it was a great chance for me to show what I could do in the green shirt, but unfortunately I had to get my hand sorted.

Basically, I had a ruptured ligament in my left index finger which wasn't helping my game at all: I couldn't pass much off that hand, which is pretty important! It was an old, recurring injury that kept flaring up after Christmas time.

We knew it was there but I agreed to play on during the year with it to see how it went, but with the wear and tear of the season it broke down again. I had a full repair job done in the summer: I had a couple of screws put in and they took a tendon from my wrist and replaced the damaged ligament with it. Now it is stronger than ever. It's like having a new finger.

Once I had recovered from the operation, pre-season started again in the first week in July. There was plenty of rehab at the start, but having a hand injury meant there was no escaping the cardio work. All in all, it means I have a good pre-season under my belt, which I haven't had in previous years. That should stand to me later in the season.

While I'll miss tomorrow's game, it's fair to say that Dragons are going to present a tricky opener for us. It's always good to get the first game at home and the fact that we've beaten them in the Sportsground in the last ten years is also a boost. Hopefully we can continue that record and kick-start the season with a good a win.

Things are a little different here this year. We've seen a good number of lads leave and a few more come in so there is a real freshness about the place. Pat has already said we'll be doing a good bit of work behind the scenes with Mils and that's already started. He was a little bit jet-lagged the first week after his arrival, but he seems to have settled in nicely now. I'm really looking forward to picking his brains.

Like every team, we want to be playing in the best European competition so one of our aims is to finish in the top six this year and qualify for the Champions Cup.

My own goal for the season is to help the team get up the table and try to get sixth this time. We need to get consistency into our game and we need to get a winning mentality on the pitch for a number of weeks running.

My main personal goal is to play well for Connacht and to put my hand up for Ireland selection. If I can get my foot in the door I will do all I can to put my hand up and be one of the main contenders for that shirt. And the World Cup is in everyone's mind too, it is only around the corner.

Right now I just want to focus on playing my best for Connacht. If I get that right everything else will work itself out.

Irish Independent