Thursday 18 January 2018

Henshaw gets his move home to Leinster

Centre's addition makes up for loss of Madigan and Te'o

Robbie Henshaw has been central to Connacht’s recent success.
Robbie Henshaw has been central to Connacht’s recent success.
Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw in action against France during the Six Nations match at the Stade de France.

Robbie Henshaw is coming home.

There was a collective heavy exhale of relief all around the Eastern province when the Irish Rugby Football Union was finally in a position to release news of the Ireland international's three-year deal at Leinster.

"This has been a long and difficult process and, while I am sorry to be leaving Connacht, I look forward to the next chapter of my rugby career at Leinster," issued Henshaw in the statement.

"The support I have enjoyed from the fans in the Sportsground and throughout the province is something that I really value.

"I want to thank them for four great years."

The Athlone man was born and raised on the Westmeath side of the midlands town and even played two years for his county as a midfielder in the Leinster Minor Football Championship.

The fact Henshaw attended school at Marist College put him in the torn territory of playing schools rugby in Connacht and schools Gaelic football in Leinster.

It was his family traditional links to Buccaneers rugby club that formed his allegiance to Connacht where he has become their golden boy.

It is understood the IRFU wanted Henshaw to stay at Connacht.

But, the decision on where to play ultimately rested with the player.

"I am disappointed for Connacht that Robbie has decided to leave but pleased for Irish rugby," commented IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has finally been able to make a significant breakthrough in the transfer market.

"Robbie is a huge talent and we have all seen that over the last few weeks and months with Ireland in the 6 Nations and during the World Cup," reacted Cullen.

"We look forward to welcoming him into Leinster when this season is over and I am sure that our supporters would echo that view."

The exit door has been taken too often by utility back Ian Madigan, centre Ben Te'o and tight-head Marty Moore to leave Leinster short-handed, especially in the centre area.

The move will have The Blues supporters dreaming of a brilliant union between Henshaw and the potentially complete Garry Ringrose.

It should not be forgotten that the long-term earning potential for Henshaw, outside his salary, will improve significantly for the clean-cut hero.

This is bound to have been a factor in his decision along with the long-term sustainability of the provinces, Leinster as a legitimate challenger in Europe and Connacht as a legitimate challenger for qualification.

These is a world of difference between the two.

Obviously, it comes as a sickening blow to Connacht.

So long seen as the development province, The Westerners have debunked all the old clichés to stand second in the PRO12, just behind Ulster on points-difference.

The 22 year-old's decision to leave has left a bad taste in the mouth of those left behind and could yet have a destabilising effect on their best season in the professional era.

"It's disappointing and but it's the nature of professional rugby," said coach Pat Lam.

"Everything we do is around the collective. Robbie is part of the 2015-16 team. And everything we are doing this year, and the years previous it's all about the collective as we go through."

Leinster were also able to confirm the signing of former Munster second row Ian Nagle, a move flagged before Christmas.

"It is well documented at this stage that Ian took a sabbatical from rugby at the end of the 2013/14 season to pursue educational opportunities most recently at Cambridge University," said Cullen.

"He has however made a return to rugby with London Irish and was involved last weekend in their win against Worcester.

"He is also relatively young at 27 and I think he will add even more experience and competition to an already competitive second row roster."

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