Robbie Henshaw won’t be fazed facing Leinster

Connacht boss Pat Lam doesn’t believe Robbie Henshaw will be affected when he comes up against his prospective new Leinster teammates in this weekend’s Pro12 top-of-the-table clash.

Robbie Henshaw won’t be fazed facing Leinster

Henshaw will face Leinster in opposition for the first time since deciding to leave his home province. Henshaw played every Six Nations game for Ireland and needed extra recovery time, but is ready for Connacht duty at the Sportsground on Saturday.

“He is so keen to finish well,” said Lam. “I spoke to him after the test match, and you have to remember he played every minute of those games, and he’s pretty battered and bruised, and on the weekend, he took quite a big knock. But through all my time here, he’s always been professional, we have a good relationship. I have sent him the stuff and he’ll pick it up real fast, and I know he’ll do well for us going forward.”

Lam will have all five Connacht internationals available for selection ahead of Saturday’s interprovincial clash.

The famous five - Connacht’s biggest representation on an Ireland team - have enjoyed staggered returns to training this week, with the exception of Robbie Henshaw, who is not due back at the Sportsground till tomorrow.

“Kieran Marmion and Finlay Bealham joined us on Monday, Nathan White and Ultan Dillane returned today (Tuesday). Ultan has a few niggles at the moment, so will have to be monitored during the week, and Robbie Henshaw will join us on Thursday,” says Lam.

“They all are available, but probably the tricky one to manage is everything we have done is as a team, and they have been away for a while. So I have to manage where they are mentally, where they are physically, and obviously, the whole squad.

“Ultimately we are not a team of individuals. We have always focused on what we do as a collective, so we will balance this one game and make a decision on that.”

Lam expects all five internationals, if selected, to make a valuable contribution.

“International rugby is great, it’s at another level and you have good friendships, but when you come back and get onto the field it’s all guns blazing at each other and doing the best for your team. They have done well and it’s been huge having so many represent Ireland, but the pleasing thing is they have said that it’s great to be back and are looking forward to contributing, not just this week, but for the run-in of our next six quality games.”

Also back in training this week are hooker Shane Delahunt, scrumhalf John Cooney, and lock Andrew Browne, but absent is Craig Ronaldson, regular centre partner with Bundee Aki who injured ankle ligaments in Connacht’s win over Edinburgh two weeks ago.

Since that bonus-point win in the Scottish capital, Connacht have enjoyed a week’s break before resuming training in Westport last week.

“It was a valuable week. The biggest development for us is understanding the opportunities we create. When you consider we are playing a team of 31 internationals - we have eight - and they have the most caps in the Pro 12 with 8756 - we have the lowest with 50. But I don’t see as underdogs, but a high performing team. It’s not about individuals or internationals coming back, what I am trying to stress is the importance of the collective.”

Lam says Connacht deserve to be the top of the Pro 12. “We have worked hard to be here, and it’s important to understand how we got there. It’s just fantastic for Connacht Rugby, for the whole province, and everyone is looking forward to it.

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