Robbie Henshaw’s Champions Cup semi-final chances improving

“They’ve been hugely impressed with how fast he’s gotten to the stage he’s at.”

Robbie Henshaw’s Champions Cup semi-final chances improving

By Brendan O’Brien

Robbie Henshaw’s season looked to be over when he dislocated a shoulder against Italy in the Six Nations. Seven weeks later and things have changed for the better.

The Athlone man gave a positive update on his injury two weeks ago, revealing he was five weeks through a 10-week rehab that was due to end in and around the weekend of the Champions Cup semi-finals.

And his prospects of featuring in Leinster’s last four meeting with Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium on April 21 seemed to improve still further yesterday given the province’s forwards coach John Fogarty’s latest progress report.

“Speaking with the lads who’ve been working with Robbie over the last few weeks, they’ve been hugely impressed with how fast he’s gotten to the stage he’s at,” said Fogarty. “They’re talking very positively about Robbie right now.”

Another man leaving it late to be involved against the Welsh region in three weekend’s time is Jack Conan. The back row injured a knee against Ospreys late last month. Out of action since, he will not feature this next two weeks against Zebre or Benetton.

The hope is that Conan will return to training for the week of the Scarlets game.

Jordan Larmour, who hasn’t featured for the club since before the Six Nations, is due to return to training next week. He has been sidelined since Ireland’s win in Twickenham with a calf injury suffered whilst on Ireland duties last month.

The latest on Sean O’Brien sounded all too familiar. The flanker returned to training last week and will be “further assessed” this week. Again. He picked up a shoulder injury against Scarlets, on his return from a hip injury, last month.

The line on Luke McGrath was better. The scrum-half was replaced midway through the second half of the Saracens game last Sunday with an ankle injury and Fogarty suggested that the diagnosis was a lot better than had been initially expected.

The fact is that Leinster will make good use of their enviable resources this next two weeks, regardless of injuries, as they go about securing a home PRO14 semi-final place whilst ensuring players get the rest and/or game time required.

The priority now for the collective is to refocus.

Saracens is past tense. Old news. Senior coach Stuart Lancaster has a term for this, borrowed it would seem from author Paul McGee’s S.U.M.O. a self-help bestseller. Hooker James Tracy explained what’s involved.

“We have our review of the game and then we have a mantra of SUMO. Shut Up and Move On. We are on to the next bit.

“There will be a few fresh faces in and everyone is looking forward to what we can do in the league because if we don’t win these games...

“We’re not underestimating Zebre because they have won in Ireland and beaten Connacht twice, and we have had some tough fixtures against them, so we need to win some home games to leave us in good nick for the knockout stages.”

There was no elation at the full-time whistle on Sunday. The reigning, back-to-back European champions might have been evicted from the premises but there was an acknowledgement among all that the job is a long way from done.

Leinster were in this very position 12 months ago, with berths booked in both semi-finals, and they came up empty-handed. Tracy spoke of how they had to make do with 40% possession against Saracens and how their discipline could have been better.

You don’t doubt they’ll do everything to fix that and more.

The hunger is clearly there. Tracy is among the majority of this current Leinster squad for whom the club’s next continental title would stand as a first. This is a generation that wants its own chapter in the record books.

Its own gold star.

“It’s another thing Stuart (Lancaster) emphasised when he did some work with the NFL teams last summer,” said Tracy.

“They have a ring when they win their championship and our equivalent of that is our star.

“He was like: ‘it’s the only tangible thing nobody can take away from you, ever. When you win, it is that star. That’s something we’re all striving toward — something that I can have that I can say ‘I was proud of that’.

“I’m obviously extremely proud of the lads that have gone before me, but I wasn’t lucky enough to play in those games, and I want to be involved in those in the future and hopefully leave something behind I can be proud of.”

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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