By Irene Feighan
It was hard not to wince during the Six Nations last February when an Italian player collided heavily with Robbie Henshaw just as he drove the ball over the line to score his second try of the match.
“I knew straight away that was me done,” says the 25-year-old.
His right shoulder was badly injured and needed surgery along with intensive physiotherapy. Eight months later, it’s “as good as new”, he says brightly.
“The work that was put into it was incredible. I didn’t wait around too long. I pushed the boundaries — getting back into the gym and into the physio.”
Long before he took up sport, music was his passion. “My grandfather, Billy Henshaw Sr, taught all the family through an aural technique.
"He’d whistle into our ear and we’d play back what we heard until we got it exactly right. It was a tradition in the family, passed down through his generation.”
Robbie started on the fiddle and later moved on to the accordion, which he “completely loved”. Punch his name into a YouTube search and you’ll see videos where he is playing the accordion, his fingers finding the notes effortlessly thanks no doubt to years of practice.
From Athlone and one of four children, he has been going out with Mullingar woman Sophie since their schooldays. She’s studying accountancy in Dublin and, though they are not living together, it’s on the horizon — “probably in the near future”, he says.
In the meantime, he has a degree in economics and geography to complete — two subjects that could easily land him a career in teaching.
For now, his aim is to complete his arts degree. And when he retires from professional rugby? “Maybe something in the line of business.”
Overall, I’m good shape. I had a really good pre-season training. I’m injury free which is a blessing. We have three tough days on the pitch — Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I’m in the gym four days, usually an hour per session and two sessions every day.
We have a nutritionist advising us on meals and what we should be eating. I try to have a well-balanced diet and to mix up meat and fish — many of the players don’t eat too much fish.
I have plenty of veg and carbohydrates as well. I need to chew more and slow down when I’m eating. I see food as fuel.
A pepperoni pizza or a burger at Bunson Burger in Dublin — it’s at the top of the list for a lot of players.
We’d have a lot of coffee — two to three cups — and sugar — fruit and smoothies — before games. You’d probably bestill on a high after a game and then it’s tough to sleep afterwards.
I like to go for a coffee with a few friends outside of rugby. I also like to go home to my family house in Athlone, to get out of Dublin and spend a bit of time in the countryside. I live close to the river Shannon, and we go out on the boat.
I’d love to have Tom Brady, the NFL quarterback,and Muhammad Ali.
When I walk into my grandmother’s house in Athlone and there is an apple tart just out of the oven.
I’d like to rock long hair. I’ve never had a long head of hair — I wonder what I’d look like.
I shed a tear when we won the Champions Cup final with Leinster in May.
Bad manners would tick me off a little bit.
I could be a little more outgoing. I’m a little bit shy, probably more so in groups. In a team environment, it’s fine. We’re with each other every day — it’s more like family.
Before some games, I’d have a quick prayer.
Coming home from work and having a cup of tea on the couch — maybe with a rice cake and peanut butter.