Connacht welcome back Henshaw but Muliana moving to Zebre
CONNACHT yesterday confirmed that former All Black Mils Muliaina will move to Zebre at the end of the season, bringing the curtain down on his one-year hiatus in the west of Ireland.
The legacy of the 100-cap New Zealander's brief, injury-hit stint in Galway will come down to the last weeks of the season and whether Pat Lam's team can claim a place in the Champions Cup through and reach the late stages of the Challenge Cup.
Certainly, the arrival of such an illustrious player made headlines and brought the province's profile up but whether they have got bang for their considerable buck on the pitch remains in question.
Pat Lam yesterday hailed the 34-year-old's "lasting contribution" to the province and he has acted as a mentor to the younger backs coming through as he leaves to take up a one-year contract with the struggling Italian province.
One of those is the returning Robbie Henshaw who is coming back into the squad on the back of an excellent first Six Nations campaign for this weekend's Challenge Cup quarter-final against Gloucester at Kingsholm.
The centre is the undisputed star of the westerners' backline, a player who instantly improves Lam's options.
But backs' coach Andre Bell warned the 21-year-old's teammates against becoming overly reliant on Henshaw.
"The key thing is that he's only part of the equation and he's got to fit into our system as well," the Kiwi coach said.
"Just because he's in there, our players have also got to play their part and not expect him to do everything. I'm sure they will.
"Robbie's joined back up with us in training this week and he's excited to come back into our environment.
"He just has to get himself back up to speed on our moves and with the Connacht way, he's raring to go and we're looking forward to his contribution."
Henshaw spent last weekend in Dubai resting after an incredible physical effort in Ireland colours and captain John Muldoon reckons he's is fresh and raring to go.
"He's nice and refreshed, he got a couple of days off and I'm sure he badly needed it, mentally and physically," he said.
"He's a massive player for Connacht rugby, he's done outstandingly well for Ireland over the last couple of weeks and he'll bring a huge boost to us coming back. Robbie is Robbie, he'll fit right back in."
Lam and his opposite number David Humphreys name their teams this lunchtime.