| 7.1°C Belfast

Henshaw in dreamland preparing for another final



No regrets: Robie Henshaw left Connacht in 2016 but is now looking forward to his second successive Champions Cup final with Leinster

No regrets: Robie Henshaw left Connacht in 2016 but is now looking forward to his second successive Champions Cup final with Leinster

©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

No regrets: Robie Henshaw left Connacht in 2016 but is now looking forward to his second successive Champions Cup final with Leinster

Inter-provincial transfers are topical at the minute but in the week of the Champions Cup final there was no room for Robbie Henshaw to get into the nitty-gritty about the benefits of switching sides.

Stuart Lancaster fielded questions on the Joey Carbery issue at Leinster's pre-Bilbao media day, but questions to the players about the out-half's conundrum were deemed off limits with the focus firmly on Saturday.

The finalists boast two of the most successful cross-border transfers in the professional game in Henshaw and Seán Cronin who both joined from Connacht in search of further success.

And the 24-year-old centre has no regrets about moving across the Shannon in 2016 in the wake of his home province's unforgettable PRO12 final success against Leinster in Edinburgh.

That was a special day for a young man steeped in Connacht, but as a child he was reared on the big Heineken Cup games and Europe has always had a special allure and he admits that a win over Racing 92 would surpass the success of two years ago.

"I think so, yeah. I think so," he says. "I've been in love with this competition since I was a kid. I always used to love watching it and to have a taste of it in Connacht a few years ago, you really feel the step up and the energy it brings.

"So I think to be here in this position is a bit of a dream, but you can't talk about silverware yet because we know a job has to be done and we're putting in great work this week to prepare for what's to come.

"We pay a lot of respect to our fans as well, I think we're not going to do the job without them.

"In the Aviva the last day it was incredible and I think we're going to need that behind us this week."

The fact that he was back at the Aviva Stadium for the semi-final win over Scarlets was a success in itself.

In the days after he dislocated his shoulder when scoring a try for Ireland against Italy, there were fears his season was over and he himself was targeting a place on the summer tour of Australia as a realistic return date.

His recovery has been hailed as remarkable within the game, in particular by Brian O'Driscoll who suffered a similar injury in 2005.

"I suppose it comes off the back of a number of a number of things," Henshaw explains.

"I had a great surgeon in Hannan Mullett in Santry, a great medical staff here (in Leinster), the guys who worked with me in the physio and rehab department here... I suppose post-surgery I was kind of straight into the club after two days.

"If you get a long-term injury, usually you keep your head down, you get into your shell and you stay away from the place for a couple of weeks, just to get your head back right, but I was straight back in and keen to do work on it straight away.

"I was pretty much pain-free a couple of days afterwards and got out of the sling as quickly as I could and then thankfully didn't have any setbacks and hit all my markers so we could take that aggressive approach.

"Initially my thoughts were the end of May/June, that I'd hopefully get back for the Australia Tests but thankfully it's been a swift recovery.

"It was a full reconstruction (of the shoulder), but it was through keyhole (surgery) so it wasn't an open incision if you know what I mean."

Although the graduation of so many Academy prospects has been hailed as the secret to Leinster's success, the capture of Henshaw cannot be discounted as a factor in their return to the business end of the season.

Convincing him to move from Connacht was as important as any of their overseas recruitment and, after tasting what the competition has to offer in his early career, he is relishing a shot at the title against Racing this weekend.

"If you look across the board, at any player playing in Europe, even around the world, this competition is the most well-known, the best competition in Europe," he said. "Any player wants to be in this position.

"I've loved every minute of my rugby here, it's where you want to be. Thinking back to last year, the kind of hurt we had over in France against Clermont, we brought it into this year.

"The job isn't done yet but we've definitely grown as a team since that occasion last year."

Belfast Telegraph