It may have cost him dearly, but Robbie Henshaw has no regrets over the try he scored against Italy last month even if it reduced him to a watching brief for the next five weeks as Ireland completed the Grand Slam.
Joe Schmidt felt differently.
The Ireland coach spoke a few days after that 56-19 win about the bad feeling he had looking on from the coach’s box as the Athlone man zeroed in on the try line and how he had been proven right in the aftermath.
Henshaw stayed down after touching down, the weight of the defending Tomasso Benvenuti having caused considerable damage to his right shoulder. It was a high price to pay, especially given Ireland has already secured a winning bonus point.
“We didn’t need the try, Schmidt said, “we need him.”
Henshaw had been in superb form for Leinster prior to the Six Nations and his impressive performances against France and Italy confirmed the impression of a gifted player who had moved his game on to yet another level.
It was a cruel blow.
“It was just the way he landed on my back, it was just a freak incident,” he explained yesterday.
“In that scenario you can’t not score a try, you can’t pull up and get tackled.
“These things happen in sport. It’s about you taking the highs and the lows and how you bounce back. I’d rather dislocate my shoulder scoring a try than hitting someone in a tackle.”
It took an age for the medics to remove him from the field and his distress was so obvious as he left that a return to action this season looked highly unlikely. Thankfully, the prognoses since have been more uplifting.
“It’s five weeks in now. Everything is going really well. Roughly halfway there so at least my target is that I’m not ruled out for the rest of the season, which is good. It has me in a good mindset. If it’s a season-ending injury then you might go through the motions a little bit.”
He opted against offering a definitive return date, but another five weeks would suggest a reappearance around the last week of April: Beat Saracens and Leinster would have a European semi-final on the weekend of the April 21/22.
Too soon, maybe, but plenty still to aim for before the summer recess.
If there has been a silver lining to this cloud then it is the opportunity to finish an Arts with economics and geography degree in UCD.
He joked yesterday about attending more classes in recent weeks than he had in years before that.
He popped over to London at the weekend, too.
Henshaw flew in with his partner, but managed to wangle a pass down to the pitch area for the presentations and celebrations, and he was on the podium when the champagne started fizzing and the general giddiness kicked in.
He didn’t go all John Terry on it, but he wasn’t inclined to do a Roy Keane either and slink into the background as his team-mates went mad, which is what the suspended Manchester United skipper did when the club won the Champions League in 1999.
Turns out that Henshaw’s role in the aftermath was far from negligible.
Pat Lam introduced a sort of Samoan chant to Connacht, led by Bundee Aki, as the squad gathered around and clapped. Henshaw adapted the practise by translating the words into Irish and Aki duly delivered the lines in Twickenham on Saturday evening.
“I did feel part of it,” he said. “Everyone says you played a big part. You take it on board, but ultimately you want to be there, you want to be involved. It was a great campaign and I definitely contributed something to the group from the early parts until I got injured.”
His misfortune was one chapter in a wider narrative.
Already without Jared Payne, Joe Schmidt had to recalibrate his midfield in the absence of Garry Ringrose for so long and then Chris Farrell went and followed Henshaw into casualty midway through the Six Nations.
It made for an enormous block of responsibility for Bundee Aki, who only made his international debut in November, but he was the glue in the centre for Ireland until injury hobbled him 56 minutes into the last game, against England.
“When you play in the centre you create these relationships with the 12 or 13 and each player has different traits and plays different ways. For him, it would be incredibly hard to adapt to how different players play.
“But he took it in his stride,” Henshaw explained.
“He was a rock in the middle of the park for us. His defence and his attack were great. He was definitely in a tricky
situation there with new players coming in.”
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