Race safety Robbie Henshaw was preparing for the late canter while Leinster was aiming for big prizes


Aidan O’Brien has always adhered to the training credo that if you overtax the mind of a Thoroughbred horse, the horse’s body can suffer.

At the Leinster stables, Stuart Lancaster has attempted to walk a similar tightrope for the past two weeks, balancing between gentle guidance and corporal punishment as the Irish provinces grapple with their double trophy goals.

Not all of his fine stallions are at the same level of fitness at this point in the season; Some require a subtle rejuvenation, others a more generous dab of physical flogging.

In the case of Robbie Henshaw, his zeal for the heavy load is arguably more necessary than any other.

For a midfielder who has enjoyed such a successful season, culminating in a pivotal role with the Lions well into mid-summer 2021, he has spent too much time in training camp this season.

He did not appear in green and only played 415 minutes in total; half of those minutes were compiled in just three games through the end of January; three consecutive inter-provincial clashes in April are his most diligent achievement.

With Leinster targeting six knockout games by June 18, no one in blue is better prepared for action than he is; Few are obsessed with a greater desire to skate on hard-packed ground as his team seeks to triumph at the Summer Classics.

“I haven’t played much yet,” admits Henshaw, who appears to have vented much of his genuine frustration at his former side Connacht with two stirring performances in their two-legged affair in the last 16.

“It was up and down for me. A kind of stop-start. Definitely a little frustrated but I just have to stick with the process and have faith that it will be good and have a strong end to the season.

“I was looking forward to that. Connacht was fun. We were against in Galway and that was a different experience for me because I’ve played there for so long and it was my first game there.

“It was hostile and I felt the full heat of the pitch. There was this certain frustration element to this game that definitely carried over to the Aviva.

“We knew we had to do better than we did in Galway. Luckily we shifted up a few gears and it showed in our performance.”

This ability to shift momentum into overdrive has typified so many Leinster attacks in postseason awards moments, and the depth of their roster allowed them to keep their forces in perfect shape. Henshaw’s inactivity for much of the season, such a frustration at the time, could now be a blessing.

“I feel really fresh. On the other hand it’s good. I tell myself it was good. I can definitely attack that last block and be really fresh for the upcoming games.

“There are still a few good games to play if we keep going and do what we want to do. It’s positive.

“Stuart yanked our legs off, which wasn’t pleasant.

“We’ve done a lot of fitness work, a lot of contact work because we know Leicester are a big side with big ball carriers. So we were sharp there. And just a lot of kick pressure stuff to get ready for this dogfight that George Ford will be sending a lot of kicks through our channels and guys like the Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth, their boxing kicks.

“Practice a lot, be a center on the move, work hard on the ball, know where the kick is going to land and be ready to go again.

“And when we kick the kick, sit on your bike and chase it. There was a lot of running and a lot of hard training, which was good.

“We treated ourselves like a charging block to top up our fitness and make sure we’re ready for Saturday.”

Under wraps for much of the campaign, Henshaw is aiming to burst out of the stands on Saturday, a race certainty, to hit his belts. Race safety Robbie Henshaw was preparing for the late canter while Leinster was aiming for big prizes

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