Le­in­ster’s huge boost as Hen­shaw set for re­turn

Western Mail - - SPORT -

IRE­LAND Six Na­tions star Rob­bie Hen­shaw is set to give Le­in­ster a ma­jor fit­ness boost ahead of Satur­day’s Euro­pean Champions Cup semi-fi­nal against the Scar­lets in Dublin.

The pow­er­ful cen­tre hasn’t played since dam­ag­ing his shoul­der in the act of scor­ing dur­ing the Cham­pi­onship romp against Italy in Fe­bru­ary.

The 2017 Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions tourist took part in Le­in­ster’s cap­tain’s run and their warm-up prior to the sur­prise home Guin­ness PRO14 de­feat to Benet­ton at the RDS on Satur­day.

And head coach Leo Cullen is op­ti­mistic Hen­shaw could play a part against the Scar­lets.

“Ex­actly, yeah, that’s the hope,” said Cullen. “It was good to get him back for the match day warm-up.

“He did a good bit of train­ing this week. He’s get­ting closer.”

How­ever, an­other Ire­land star, back-rower Sean O’Brien, is strug­gling to prove his fit­ness for the Aviva Sta­dium show­down.

O’Brien has been plagued by in­jury is­sues since the Lions tour and only man­aged 41 min­utes of his come­back game at the RDS.

Like the Scar­lets, who were with­out the ma­jor­ity of their firstchoice XV for the 52-14 ham­mer­ing by Ed­in­burgh, Le­in­ster also rested key per­son­nel for the clash with the Ital­ians.

“For us, it’s just about mak­ing sure we re­cover well and get our­selves ready for what is a hugely ex­cit­ing game to be in­volved in,” Cullen added.

“We’re very clear about the plan in our minds go­ing into the game.

“We know what po­ten­tially gets us into trouble against the Scar­lets, we know on the flip side, if we get cer­tain things right, like we did against Sara­cens (in the quar­ter-fi­nal), we can pro­duce good mo­ments and things in games, it’s about try­ing to fo­cus on what makes this game tick.”

Cullen also be­lieves Wayne Pi­vac’s side have im­proved since their stun­ning PRO12 semi-fi­nal play-off win at the RDS last May.

“It’s quite a long time ago now,” he said.

“I’ve looked back at that footage and there’s a good few dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters.

“I think the mix of the teams is slightly dif­fer­ent. I think Scar­lets are a bet­ter team now so I hope we’ll be bet­ter now than we were last year as well.

“That’s what we’ve tried to fo­cus on, get­ting bet­ter and putting our­selves in a po­si­tion where we’ve en­sured we’re at home for a semi-fi­nal in Europe, so the crowd, the sup­port we get will be huge.

“It was fan­tas­tic in the Sara­cens game and hope­fully it’s the same this week.

“It’s a huge week for the club.”

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