Parents may moan about the regularity with which clubs unveil expensive new jerseys but if it wasn’t for that, then we would still be wondering what Robbie Henshaw looks like in Leinster colours.
Still sidelined by a knee injury he brought with him when swapping Galway for Dublin, the Ireland centre’s public appearances have been limited to promotional duties for the club’s new away and European kits. How he fits in on the field remains to be seen, but he is at least back training and expects a warm welcome from teammates next week when he takes contact for the first time at UCD. He hopes to be trotting out in blue for his debut come mid-October for the Champions Cup second round date with Montpellier in France. Munster the week before is a vague possibility.
“It’s not ideal, to start off like that in a new club,” he admitted this week. “In a positive way, the time off did give me the opportunity to look around at the whole set-up and see how things are run in terms of meetings of the pitch. And then the training and matches on it: I’ve had that time to observe. But I would have been keen to play a few games and make an impact.”
Most players will say that it takes a few games to re-acclimatise to the oxygen-deprivation chamber that is a professional rugby game. European rugby wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for that reintegration and certainly not so close to November. Henshaw was 24th man that day in November 2013 when Ireland came within a whisker of claiming the All Blacks scalp in Dublin so he knows something about the demands of facing the world champions.
It’s asking a lot — even of someone as talented and as physically imposing as him — to find fifth gear so soon. November 5, to be exact, when Ireland face a New Zealand team that continues to find more within itself with each passing game.
“The All Blacks are razor sharp. They are the best in the business. It’s what we want to match ourselves against: a team who every player wants to play, the way they exploit the space by throwing those quick passes. A hooker throwing a 10-metre pass to put your man in the corner, playing like a centre. They can do the basics incredibly well. From 1 to 23, they have top-class players who can execute skills under pressure.”
Henshaw has come from a club and a culture under Connacht boss Pat Lam that has encouraged a similarly expansive and effective philosophy, and he now finds himself at a province moving back in the same direction. “We’ve played nice rugby in parts,” he said of a Leinster side that has scored and conceded a heap of tries in their four games to date. “I’ve enjoyed watching it and I can’t wait to play within it either.”
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