Belfast Telegraph

Whispers of Robbie Henshaw's exit are getting louder

By Michael Sadllier

Rumours, with Connacht it comes with the landscape. If it's not about some new difficulty to be overcome in keeping the professional game alive and kicking west of the Shannon, then it will surround a player possibly being poached by a rival province.

Mind you, under Pat Lam's watch this season the western province have made considerable waves in both the PRO12, where they are currently sixth, and in the European Challenge Cup where they are in with the real shout of making the last eight but, even so, there is always seemingly something there to interrupt the view.

This time the whispers have been growing louder that Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw is pondering his exit from his native province. Yes, just when Lam seems to have possibly turned things around, and been permitted to boost the squad with Bundee Aki and former All Black Mils Muliaina, then along comes something else to potentially rock the boat.

It's just typical for Connacht, really, and though Henshaw is contracted up until 2016, there is a growing belief - already floated in a Sunday newspaper - that he may not be seeing out his time in Galway and, with Ireland factors increasingly influencing matters, the 21-year-old rising star might just be reckoning on a move to Leinster.

If true, it would be hard to argue with the logic as Henshaw's future international career prospects will hardly be benefited by staying on at Connacht, particularly if the centre finds himself having to increasingly play his European rugby in the Challenge Cup.

When, rather than if, seems the most likely outcome here and would be a massive blow for the province who, with Lam at the helm, have been making waves and particularly so when they did the double in the Challenge Cup over Bayonne though most notably when what was essentially a shadow side managed to turn over the French over in their own backyard.

Lam is clearly doing something right and the foundations also look to be in safe hands with former coach Eric Elwood now back on board as domestic rugby manager. No better man to work at the grassroots level with the game growing in the west and, with Lam heading things up, the crowds at the Sportsground are growing too.

There is hope that they possibly can sustain a charge at qualifying for next season's Champions Cup and with emerging talents Kieran Marmion, Darragh Leader and Jack Carty all on board it might yet be done.

All three are involved in the squad for tonight as Connacht go in search of ending their awful record in Belfast, where they have not tasted victory since 1960.

Belfast Telegraph

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