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Leinster a natural home for Henshaw

Connacht has always been the natural rugby home of Ireland's Robbie Henshaw.

It is where he won a Connacht Schools Senior Cup medal with Marist Athlone and from where he has played his provincial rugby from his schoolboy days right up to his current status as a fully-fledge Ireland international.

However, Leinster has always been the natural home of the man from the Westmeath side of Athlone's tracks, from where he wore the maroon of his county for two years of minor championship in 2010 and 2011.

Ireland centre Henshaw signed a two-year deal last season to stay at Connacht until the summer of 2016 and he must have been thrilled to see Mils Muliaina and Bundee Aki added to the Western Province's growing backline threats.

However, Leinster have shown their intent by bringing Johnny Sexton home next summer and they ache for a proven outside centre to take on the number thirteen jersey.

"The improvement he's made in a year is incredible," said Sexton, in his role as an Aer Lingus ambassador yesterday.

"He would say himself he's got so much more improvement. He's so young, only 21. It's frightening to think what he could achieve if he keeps improving the way he is.

"That is the key for all young guys is to keep doing that, keep trying to get better and see where that takes him."

A move to Leinster would also take Henshaw closer to Brian O'Driscoll, who has played something of a light-touch mentor role in terms of playing for Ireland.

Currently, Matt O'Connor's new centre signing Ben Te'o is recovering from a fractured forearm and Luke Fitzgerald had to cry-off from Leinster's PRO12 draw at Benetton Treviso on Sunday.

Leinster may also view the movement of the likes of Fionn Carr, twice, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White and this season's on-loan duo Quinn Roux and John Cooney as an imbalance that needs to be put to rights.

In counter argument, Connacht would point to the cross-country shift of Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Mike McCarthy to Dublin as reason enough for them to hold onto their most prized home-grown player.

It could all come down to Connacht's success or failure in pursuit of their qualification for The Rugby Champions Cup.

At present, they are well-placed in sixth, just one point and one place behind Leinster.

The best-placed club from each of the four countries participating in the PRO12 will qualify for the 2015-2016 Champions Cup.

The next three highest ranking teams, not already qualified, will earn an automatic place and the next best will enter into a play-off scenario.

In any case, Leinster will not rest on their laurels in the hunt for Henshaw.

They may have to wait until the end of his contract in 2016 to put in place an offer he can't refuse as the importance of winning trophies seeps through.

The IRFU may take the view that it would be unwise to unsettle Henshaw in the season leading into the 2015 World Cup.


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