This very week back in 2012 Robbie Henshaw was preparing to captain Marist College to victory in the Connacht Schools Senior Cup. Just three short years later, the Athlone youngster is now central to Ireland’s plans of retaining their RBS 6 Nations crown.
As he speaks in the Ireland team hotel ahead of this weekend’s trip to Wales, Robbie Henshaw admits a busy schedule prevents him from having the time to think about how far he has come in such a short space of time.
As the top tackling-back in the 2015 RBS 6 Nations so far, Henshaw has visibly grown in confidence with Jared Payne and Jonathan Sexton by his side and he extended his influence with his first international try in a man-of-the-match performance against England.
“I’m constantly learning, growing into it more and more and getting more confident with every game I’m playing. Especially with Jared and Johnny inside and outside, we’re building up a good relationship and looking to build on our recent performances,” said the young centre.
“I’ve never roomed with Jared but we spend quite a bit of time together, going over plays and looking at video footage of opposition teams and our own training runs and things we have done in training.
“We spend quite a bit of time together and play quite a few card games and chat over a coffee. We’re feeding off one another at the moment and learning little bits from each other with every game and training we play. We’re just growing more and more and we’re learning all the time.”
The Payne-Henshaw centre pairing has a 100% winning record to date, courtesy of victories over South Africa, Italy, France and England. But the 21-year-old is braced for one of the biggest challenges of his career to date in Cardiff on Saturday.
“The fact is Wales are at home and they play their best rugby at home, at the Millennium (Stadium), and they are going to pose a massive threat for us. We’re going to have to be squeaky clean on the day in terms of discipline, and take all the chances we get.
“It could be a more open game but we are going to stick to our game-plan and follow through with what the coach gives us. It will definitely be an exciting game.”
Looking forward to the midfield battle against Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, who combine as Wales’ starting centres for the 38th time, Henshaw insisted: “The Welsh centre parntership is up there with one of the best in the world. They have a really physical threat coming at us, massive size in Jamie Roberts coming down that 10-12 channel.
“Jonathan Davies is another good ball player and direct runner. I think they’re going to test us this week but we’re fully prepared for what they’re going to throw at us.
“Wales are very direct. They run decoy lines with Roberts coming in and them throwing it out the back. It is going to test us, big time. We just have to be prepared and stay connected in defence, and keep our communication up all day. It is going to be one of the biggest tests for us.”
The stiff opposition provided by the likes of Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald is driving Ireland’s starting centres on according to Henshaw, who has moved on quickly from the ‘surreal’ moment of scoring against England at the Aviva Stadium.
“It was an unbelievable day. It’s what every player wants to achieve in their career and looking back it was some achievement. It was pretty surreal,” he reflected.
“Just thinking about it afterwards I was in the moment, I didn’t really think about it too much because I was there to do a job and someone had to step up to do it. At the end of the day, it was a good feeling afterwards, but I suppose I’ve parked it now.
“It’s a good memory for me that will be there for a good while, but it’s on to Wales this week and that’s the focus. It’s going to be a really, really tough game and tight as well. It’s not going to be a two-score game.”