Wednesday 17 January 2018

Gatland: I asked Henshaw to play for Wales

Connacht's Robbie Henshaw
Connacht's Robbie Henshaw

John Fallon

Warren Gatland asked Robbie Henshaw last year if he had any qualifications to play for Wales.

Henshaw had burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old straight from school last season and Gatland became an immediate admirer.

The Lions and Wales coach admitted that he would love to have secured the services of the Connacht youngster.

"I saw him when we were over here with the Lions and that was before he was capped.

"I asked him if he had any Welsh qualifications. I said: 'I'll cap you if they don't do it quick enough'," said Gatland.

The Welsh boss, speaking on Galway Bay FM, said the emergence of a talent such as Henshaw showed the value in maintaining Connacht as a fourth side in Irish rugby.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for Connacht, having started here and having lived here for a number of years.

"As a national coach, and I'm sure Joe Schmidt knows this, the last thing you want to do is dilute the base. You see a youngster like Henshaw coming through and making it to the Irish squad.

"I think there is an opportunity for young men to progress through Connacht's ranks.

"I know Connacht has been useful as a development province, but they have played in the Heineken Cup and produced some fantastic players. Some have gone through Connacht and on to play for Leinster and Munster and have been really successful as well," added Gatland.

Irish Independent

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