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Henshaw reveals late coach gave him invaluable help ahead of Irish bow


By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Published 18/10/2016

Loss: Robbie Henshaw enjoyed playing under Anthony Foley
Loss: Robbie Henshaw enjoyed playing under Anthony Foley

When Robbie Henshaw was preparing to make his Ireland debut as a 19-year-old in Houston, Texas, he sought out the advice of a 62-cap veteran.

The United States team that lay in wait were determined to claim a scalp by beating a diminished Irish side, and the full-back knew the big men would come for him.

So he spoke to Anthony Foley, who he had played under for the Ireland Wolfhounds a year previously and who was manning the defence as part of Les Kiss' coaching staff.

Foley's advice wasn't flowery, but it was practical.

"Put a hole in somebody," he told the precocious talent from Athlone, who has been doing just that ever since.

Like everyone else, Henshaw was stunned when he learned of his former coach's premature death on Sunday.

When he arranged to do a press call to launch the Aviva Minis series, he could never have imagined he'd be discussing such a grim and unfathomable topic, but he did his best to put the loss into words.

"He was a coach who was straight up. He was a really good forwards coach and really good ruck coach," he said.

"He worked a bit with me on my defence and my first-up hits. He was a really good coach and I enjoyed playing under him. He was always calm as well. I only played under him twice but I loved playing under him.

"I remember him helping me when I was smaller, he helped me impose myself physically before the American game and the Canadian game.

"He helped me in terms of my tackle technique and getting my body height right. It's a tragic loss for Munster and Irish rugby. Axel was a gentleman."

Foley was always an admirer of Henshaw and did his best to sign the Connacht back when his contract came up for renewal.

The 23-year-old chose Leinster instead and he is settling into life on the east coast well now that he has overcome his knee injury and donned the blue jersey twice.

He's hungry for more as he looks to get to full tilt in time for Ireland's All Blacks tie in Chicago and he is keen to play against his old team on Saturday week.

Word hasn't come down from high yet, but he hopes Joe Schmidt agrees.

"I haven't been told yet but I'd like to play because I can to prove my fitness in the race to get on the plane for Chicago," Henshaw added.

Belfast Telegraph

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