That was the view of captain John Muldoon and head coach Pat Lam as they looked forward to a new campaign which will see exciting backline talents including Henshaw, Kieran Marmion and Darragh Leader come under the considerable influence of incoming All Blacks legend Mils Muliaina.
The IRFU’s sanctioning of the 99-times capped New Zealander’s signing, as well as the captures of Chiefs centre Bundee Aki and Blues hooker Tom McCartney, was a significant coup for a province used to playing fourth fiddle behind rivals Leinster, Munster and Ulster. It also followed Connacht’s retention of 21-year-old Henshaw, widely regarded as Brian O’Driscoll’s long-term heir at outside centre, for a further two years.
While appreciating the steps made to level the playing field ahead of a Guinness Pro12 campaign that will now see a meritocratic qualification process for European competition, Lam said his second season in charge at Connacht would have to see his team raise the bar.
“It’s a results business,” Lam said. “We have outcomes we set for our group. If we get the process right, they’re attainable.”
Back rower Muldoon, back in the captain’s role after succeeding the now retired Gavin Duffy, warned that the next objective for Connacht was to produce the results that would ensure they retain the Irish talent they currently have on their books, and Henshaw in particular.
“There are two sides to (Henshaw re-signing). He’s a young man and he’s very ambitious for his age, even though his maturity doesn’t reflect his age,” Muldoon said.
“So for him to try to better himself, if he thinks it’s outside Connacht, I’ve no doubt that he would leave, if he thought that was the case. But on the other hand, if we’re getting the results, Robbie won’t leave.”
If we don’t get the results, we’re going to have a bloody hard job to keep him. He has a two-year deal and by that stage if results aren’t going his way, I’m sure he’ll seek greener pastures. I doubt anything would step in his way and loyalty only goes so far.”
Connacht, who open their Guinness Pro12 campaign in nine days with a home game against the Newport Gwent Dragons at Galway’s Sportsground, clearly must improve on a 10th place Pro12 finish last season.
Muldoon acknowledged: “History won’t show who we signed this season, only the games that we won and lost. We know there’s pressure on us.”