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Thursday 15 November 2018

Blues reach for Everest

ALL SET: At the announcement of Leinster’s new innovation partnership with BearingPoint were (l-r): Robbie Henshaw, Seán O’Brien and Rob Kearney. Photo: SPORTSFILE
ALL SET: At the announcement of Leinster’s new innovation partnership with BearingPoint were (l-r): Robbie Henshaw, Seán O’Brien and Rob Kearney. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Stuart Lancaster has Johnny Sexton reading up on how New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has managed to extend his legendary career into his 40s.

The senior coach is also looking far and wide for examples to hammer home the difficulties Leinster will encounter this season.

They are there to be shot at by everyone in Europe.

"A good quote from Stuart was about going to Everest, reaching the peak, coming back down and then going again," said Robbie Henshaw.

"That's like what we have done. We have gone to Everest, come back down, we have reassessed and now we have to build it back up again.

"You look at teams in the past, Saracens have done it, so there is no reason why we can't do it again.

"We expect it to be hard with some obstacles in the way."

Of course, Henshaw announced his transfer to Leinster halfway through Connacht's glory season.

He high-tailed it out of there in the aftermath of the Westerners' greatest achievement.

The follow-up season did not go to plan out west.

Connacht were there to be shot at and the snipers were deadly accurate.

Henshaw did not have to suffer through all the slings and arrows as the centre was immersed in a new province, a new experience.

Now, Leinster is a different club, built to match and even break records of back-to-back European Cups, three in four years.

The landscape has altered dramatically since those halcyon days from 2009-12.

The mountains of money invested in the English and French clubs from broadcast deals make an extended period of domination much more difficult to attain

"We sat down as a group and went through the tries we conceded last year and areas we can improve on, opportunities we missed where we could score tries or done better.

"It's definitely all about repeating what we did," said Henshaw.

"But, we know every opposition this year will be better, so we ourselves need to be a better team.

"We can improve the performances when we have a change-up in teams, or guys missing.

"We have the talent and the depth to produce those performances without the big names."

The career of any player is always predicated on how to make those incremental improvements from season to season and from club to country.

Leinster are not the only ones to have a target on their backs.

Ireland, the number two nation in the world, will have to respond to what the All Blacks are doing in the Rugby Championship when the Aviva Stadium will be the stage for a war of wills and ways in November.

"Come November, we've four tough games and then sure we're into the Six Nations which is going to be massive," acknowledged Henshaw.

"We're the ones who have to get better again and have to go out and try and repeat it.

"It's definitely a massive year in terms of building relationships and building a full squad, I suppose, in the Irish shirt."

You have to get better to be the best again.

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