Wednesday 21 August 2019

Everyone at Leinster is relishing challenge - Henshaw

Robbie Henshaw is confident Leinster can produce a big performance at St James’ Park on Saturday week. Photo: Tony Gavin
Robbie Henshaw is confident Leinster can produce a big performance at St James’ Park on Saturday week. Photo: Tony Gavin

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

IN THEORY, this week Leinster cede centre stage to their provincial rivals as they take their time to build towards a big performance at St James' Park in Newcastle.

In truth, the PRO14 quarter-finals can't keep a lid on the Champions Cup build-up; particularly when the mother of all finals awaits.

Saracens provide the opposition in what could be an era-defining clash and Leo Cullen and his coaching team have allowed their squad some space to breathe - they will ramp up their build-up as the clash gets closer.

Yesterday, Robbie Henshaw swapped cutting through defences for cutting ribbons at the opening of the National Council for the Blind shop in Rathmines - a charity close to his heart.

But today he'll be back at it in UCD; breaking down footage of a daunting Saracens side and getting the body right for another battle.

Whistle

If they follow their Toulouse schedule, tomorrow will be the day they get the bulk of their on-pitch work done as Stuart Lancaster takes the whistle.

On a normal week, Tuesday is the former England coach's day to shine; 'Stuesdays' have become a thing of myth and legend at the home of the European champions.

There are, of course, other ingredients but the capacity of the boys in blue to work their way through long, draining passages of physical play that can tick past 30 phases without the team flagging is a big asset.

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That capacity to take opponents to dark places and survive is a key ingredient of the Leinster success, as is their ability to get players back from injury and produce performances from the off.

He'd rather not be a case study for those incidences, but Henshaw has had to hit the ground running after a long lay-off more often than he'd like.

And he believes the training regime has been a huge help.

"Getting up near to match-day intensity is the whole focus behind it, the whole thing is to train like you play and if you train hard during the week you'll be ready to play hard. That's where it comes from," he said.

"Getting that exposure to that toughness during the week prepares you to perform and to be able to deal with the pressures of the game.

"It definitely has an impact on your 'return to play' and how ready you are to come back and play.

"I think it's definitely helped me personally to be exposed to that level of rugby while not being involved in the physical side of it.

"Aerobically, it's definitely helped.

"It's tough, any injury you have is tough. No matter how much training you do you can't replicate an international or top-level match.

"You need to work your ass off really to get back there, but once you get those few games under your belt it helps. You get back into the flow and it's about staying fit and, hopefully, touch wood, not getting injured."

His shoulder kept him out when Leinster met Saracens last season, but Henshaw knows Saturday week's opponents well having faced so many of them in Ireland v England battles and having toured with a host of their leading lights on the 2017 Lions tour.

When they met in the quarter-final of last year's Champions Cup, it was Sarries who were the European top dogs and Leinster firmly put an end to their three-in-a-row ambitions.

Now, the tables have turned but Henshaw is confident his side can produce a performance at the home of Newcastle United.

"It was kind of like that last year, we were in the position last year where we were hunting them," he said.

"I know we're going to be faced with a big challenge, we're on top now and they're hunting us.

"Everyone is relishing the challenge, it's going to be incredibly physical and we know how tough they're going to be. They're definitely going to come out of the blocks, we've seen how they've played all year in both competitions. They've been pretty relentless in their performances.

"We're getting our stuff done, getting prepared for what's coming. We're going to go out and give it our all.

"I'm definitely confident, it's a final so everyone needs to execute their role and their detail on the day.

"The team that makes the fewest mistakes on the day wins. Finals are unbelievable to be part of. It's just great excitement.

"Absolutely, to be at the top and to be in these positions.

"We really want to replicate what we did last year and it's going to be very tough.

"Everyone is unbelievably keen to do that so yeah, to be in this position is great. I'm just looking forward to the next few weeks."

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