"I like to show my leadership through action" - Robbie Henshaw on life after Connacht

The Leinster centre has featured three times this since his move from the Pro12 champions

BY Cian Roche 15:27 Friday 28 October 2016, 15:27 28 Oct 2016

Image: James Crombie/Inpho Photography

Robbie Henshaw knows better than most that a change is as good as a rest.

Having experienced both over the past four months, the newly installed Leinster centre has adjusted to life under Leo Cullen well and was given his first start in the Champions Cup earlier this month.

An impressive victory over Castres at the RDS was followed by a bruising encounter against Montpellier, with a late try earning the visitors a losing bonus point.

The toll on his body, he admits, is something that he is still adjusting to since his return from a shoulder injury sustained on international duty in June.

"The body is good," he says. "After the first game now it was pretty sore. This was reintroduction into the physical aspect of the game, but it's certainly fine now, so I'm just delighted to be back."

Leinster face Henshaw's former team and Pro12 champions Connacht this weekend, but the 23-year-old will not be involved after his call up to the international side for the upcoming tests against New Zealand and Canada.

"I'll get to face Connacht again hopefully towards the end of the year. You obviously have to be selfish and look after yourself for the following week, which is international duty.

"There will be a different kind of feeling to it. A bit of excitement in it as well, I suppose. I will be playing against the lads I've been playing with for the last four or five years. It will be a different feeling."

His highly publicised move to Leinster was heralded as an investment in the future of the province, and a long term replacement for the calibre of player that they lost after the retirement of Brian O'Driscoll. Henshaw explains that his expectations have surpassed his initial thoughts of the team.

"The standard of players and the standard of coaching up there is top class, the facilities are top class and I'm just enjoying being involved in a high-performance team that are getting great results as well.

"I think the addition of Stuart Lancaster has had a great impact on the squad. We’re definitely going in the right direction. We’ve got a solid team there, and great variety in terms of players who can come in when the international window is on. There are guys who can step up and take on those roles while the other guys are gone.

"It’s definitely heading in the right direction. We’ve a strong base there and a strong core group."

Robbie Henshaw has quickly become a one of the leading figures in this new-look Leinster side. Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Henshaw's youthfulness is typical of Leinster's current squad; the average age of the back row which featured against Montpellier was just 23, and he says that despite his young age, his experience has seen him become one of the leaders in the Leinster dressing room.

"I can’t talk a whole lot in terms of the team, but I like to show my leadership through action, how I play on the pitch and how I train.

"I definitely feel like one of the older guys in that I can help the younger guys coming up, because I’ve been through that path and I’ve had that bit of experience coming up.

"I've matured definitely in the last couple of seasons. [International rugby] has definitely matured me as a player and being involved in a young back line [at Leinster] as well, I feel like I'm one of the older heads there. It's great to have that and help the guys if they want to bounce things off me, and I can give them some feedback or tips."

His experience is even more vital in cultivating a centre partnership with Garry Ringrose, and Henshaw says that training and playing alongside the 21-year-old has been a learning experience. 

"I've enjoyed played with Garry, we've had three games together and he's a great player. Me, personally, I don't mind who I play with, I'm just looking forward to trying to get involved and putting my hand up and being in the mix for selection.

"It's great to see a young guy like Garry come on though. I've been in his shoes a few years ago, and I know what it's like. It's great to see him take all that expectation on board and deliver on it. He's a class player, so it's great to be training and playing with him."

Ireland's tour of South Africa ended in disappointment for Henshaw after sustaining a shoulder injury. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland 

Looking ahead to their clash with the All Blacks on November 6th, Henshaw insists there is genuine confidence within the squad that Ireland can overcome the World Champions, something they narrowly missed out on in 2013.

"We have a great team there and there are some guys back from injury to strengthen our side. It’s going to come down to the wire and we’re going to be at our best to beat them obviously. It’s going to be a tough task so we all need to be 110%. We need to play the best we can.

"It’ll be tough, but I think the positive thing is that we get two shots at the All-Blacks, which makes things good. We’ll do our best like we always do. We’ll stick to the gameplan that our coaches give us and try to execute it to the best we can."

Canterbury ambassador Robbie Henshaw was speaking to Newstalk at the Ultimate Farm Challenge at Abbeyfield Farm.

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