Wednesday 21 February 2018

Boost for Joe Schmidt as Robbie Henshaw on course for return ahead of Six Nations

Robbie Henshaw is expected to return playing in the middle of January
Robbie Henshaw is expected to return playing in the middle of January

John Fallon

Fears about Robbie Henshaw’s availability for the Six Nations are abating with the Irish star on course for a return to action in mid-January.

But Joe Schmidt and Connacht coach Pat Lam will be sweating on the outcome of a scan next week when the 22-year old will find out a fracture in his left hand has recovered.

“He’ll get another x-ray in the next week or so to see how the bone’s healing. So obviously he is not available this week,” said Lam.

“There is a possibility of maybe the Scarlets game (Jan 10th) but it may be Challenge Cup. Obviously you don’t want to take any risks until that’s firmly healed.

“The surgeon wants to do another x-ray to see, and we will know more from there,” added Lam.

And loosehead prop Denis Buckley, whose form before suffering an ankle injury put him in line for an Irish call-up, is also on track to be back on schedule towards the end of January.

“He is on target. Denis is always good for being pretty diligent and always works hard. So whatever they (the medical team) give me I’m always expecting Denis to be quicker in time. He’s very keen. Hopefully at this stage, it is the end of January,” said Lam.

More immediately, Lam is hopeful that the injury crisis which has devastated his squad in recent weeks is continuing to improve.

He is hopeful that experienced hooker Tom McCartney might be available for Friday night’s clash with Leinster at the RDS.

And versatile back Danie Poolman and another hooker Jason Harris Wright are also battling to back in contention as they bid for a first ever win in the RDS.

Lam, while disappointed with the 10-3 loss to Ulster at the weekend, said it was a relief not to pick up any new injuries on a night when they surrendered their winning home record.

“We came out of the game pretty injury-free which was a real blessing and a good change.

“It was probably one our best defensive efforts but we needed to take our opportunities,” he added.

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