Robbie Henshaw has emerged as a doubt for Ireland’s upcoming November internationals, as the influential centre is struggling with a foot injury,
Leinster had hoped to include Henshaw in their team to face the Scarlets today, along with fellow Lions Tadhg Furlong and Jack Conan, but Leo Cullen revealed the Athlone man is in a race to be fit for Ireland’s games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina next month.
Andy Farrell is due to name his squad next week, with Henshaw expected to be given every chance to recover in time to feature in the November Tests. Asked if the plan was to reintroduce Henshaw against Glasgow next week, following his heavy workload with the Lions over the summer, Cullen said: “I doubt it, no. He has an issue with his foot and it’s just been a little slower than we would have thought.
“So it’s unlikely he will play in this block but hopefully he won’t be too far behind after that. He’s such a key player, Robbie, for Ireland and Leinster, and I think you saw with the Lions as well. In the past he’s come back reasonably seamlessly off the back of breaks with the various different injuries that he’s had.
“He tends to come back in a good place. He’s training away but he’s just not able to play right now. I think once he’s back he’ll be able to go straight back in, whatever team that is with.”
Pushed on whether Henshaw was a doubt for the Japan game on November 6, Cullen added: “Exactly, yeah, so a bit slower than we probably would have hoped.”
Cullen paid an emotional tribute to his former team-mate Anthony Foley, whose fifth anniversary is today, with Munster set to honour him prior to kick-off of this evening’s clash with Connacht at Thomond Park.
“It’s hard to believe, really,” Cullen said. “You’ve got me pretty emotional here now, I wasn’t expecting this one. He was the No 8 for the Irish Schools in ’92 whereas I was the No 8 for the Irish Schools in ’96. They had gone to New Zealand on their tour and we went to Australia four years later.
“Yeah, lots of similar things that we did in terms of career. He passed away at 42 and I’m currently 43 so I thought a lot about Axel when I was 42, to understand all the pressures and the rest of it that he came under. He’s in my thoughts a lot, Axel. I’m sure it will be a sad day for his family.
“I’m sure every day is but he was also an amazing character so hopefully everyone celebrates all the good things about Axel as well and what he did for the game and for the country as well, and especially Munster.
“He definitely had an effect on a lot of us but, yeah, somebody I would have watched. I admired him, seeing him play his first cap for Ireland and all the rest.”
Former team-mates Mossy Lawler and Cullie Tucker, who played with Foley during their Shannon and Munster days respectively, will be part of the Connacht coaching staff at Thomond Park this evening, and they too paid a warm tribute to Foley.
“I had the pleasure of playing with him,” ex-Munster winger and current Connacht assistant coach, Lawler said. “When I first broke into the Shannon team, he was there. When I first broke into the Munster team, he was there. He was always someone you could go to and talk to – unbelievable leader and an unbelievable team-mate.
“For him to be celebrated is only right. For us, it just adds to how special the occasion is going to be.”
Connacht’s newly-appointed defence coach Tucker added: “There should be a celebration for him. What an unbelievable man he was. I think it’s right that they are doing it and celebrating him and his family because what an outstanding servant, what an outstanding rugby player, what an outstanding person he was.”