Tuesday 23 July 2019

Henshaw stays centre-focused but insists he's open to playing 15 again

Robbie Henshaw shows his passing technique at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby summer camps. For more information log on to leinsterrugby.ie/camps
Robbie Henshaw shows his passing technique at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby summer camps. For more information log on to leinsterrugby.ie/camps
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It's going to take more than one tough day at the office for Robbie Henshaw not to put his hand up for selection at full-back again.

Having waited so long for his chance to impress in a position that many felt he is best suited to, England exploited his lack of game-time during the Six Nations opener.

In Henshaw's defence, the space that was regularly left in the back-field was not solely his responsibility - instead it was more of a collective malaise as Ireland were caught cold.

That said, it was difficult to get away from the fact that Henshaw's power and guile was missed in midfield, which is why Joe Schmidt may not revert him back to the 15 jersey unless there is an injury crisis.

Project

It was a project that Schmidt had long planned on testing and even though it didn't quite work out, it is not a position Henshaw is going to shy away from if he is asked to play there again in the future.

Prior to the defeat to England, Henshaw's only recent time at full-back came during a Leinster game against Benetton, while the last time he had started at 15 was back in his Connacht days.

As the 25-year-old rightly pointed out, the game has moved on even since those few short years ago, which he learned first hand as England repeatedly kicked the ball in behind Ireland's defence.

"It was a tough game to play in," Henshaw admits. "I hadn't played full-back in a while but it was a great challenge.

"Owen Farrell was pretty exceptional in that game in terms of finding space in behind. I had a lot of running to do in the first half particularly. If I had to go there again, I would sa,y 'Yeah'. I wouldn't mind playing 15 again.

"I will probably back in the centre with Leinster. Hopefully I will focus on that for the moment.

"But if there is a job that has to be done down the line then I would say, 'Yeah'."

Asked if he felt that Eddie Jones' men had targeted him, Henshaw insists: "Not really, no. I thought there was space in our back-field and I couldn't cover all of it.

"I don't think I was being targeted but I think they got access into the game through their early try, Jonny May's try. They got access and I suppose that had a knock-on effect for the game."

As a centre, Henshaw has been built for power, so when he was asked to switch to full-back, it meant that all of the core skills that he had spent the last few years working on had to be adjusted to what is a more demanding position in terms of the amount of ground that you need to cover.

"As a player, you're expected to be able to run," he explains. "For me, I was in good shape, probably was in better shape when I came back at the start of pre-season. I was a bit lighter, whereas I was probably built a bit more after my hamstring injury. I was built a bit more for the centre. You have to just muscle up and get on with it and be able to run, to put in the yards."

It will be fascinating to see if Schmidt is tempted to have another look at Henshaw at full-back during the World Cup warm-up games, but the feeling is that he and Garry Ringrose remain Ireland's first-choice centre partnership and to break that up could be detrimental.

"It's hard to know, I can only play where ever I am picked," Henshaw smiles, as he ponders the possibility of being asked to wear the number 15 shirt again any time soon.

"Listen, I'd be happy to do it but 12 or 13 is where I have played most of my rugby with Leinster," he says.

"The last game I played there for Ireland was my first game against USA at full-back.

"It's a long time ago and I am sure with the way the game has developed, it's different to how it was back then."

Henshaw has been ruled out since the England game but is nearing a return to full fitness following the troublesome dead leg that shocked the medical staff.

"It was a collision in training at top speed," he added.

"Unfortunately, one of the lads' knee caught me straight on the sweet spot of my quad.

Rarest

"I had to go and see a guy (specialist) in London, just for him to clear up what the story was. He said, 'Yeah, it is going to be longer than you think.'

"This ended up being one of the rarest dead legs in the world. Honestly. There was definitely blood vessels involved that were leaking and then my leg kept inflaming, swelling up after a couple of weeks.

"There had only been three or four other ones that they've seen in the world in sport, not just rugby. There was one in AFL, one in ice hockey.

"I'm available for this week I think, but they're (Leinster) just keen to get me training and into full training this week, then back into it next week hopefully."

Irish Independent

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