Leinster set for heavyweight ‘kick tennis’ match with Leicester


ROBBIE HENSHAW believes Leinster will need to be prepared for a game of ‘kick tennis’ when they take on Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup quarter-final at Welford Road this Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm).

A clash between the leaders of the United Rugby Championship and the Gallagher Premiership, it should be the biggest test of Leinster’s resolve in Europe so far this season. Leicester have recorded an impressive 23 tries in five games so far in the 2021/22 Champions Cup, but with Leinster having crossed the blank 41 times, Henshaw is not expecting an overly cavalier approach from the Tigers.

“They’re a very pragmatic team in terms of how they approach their kicking game. How they apply pressure, in the sense of going through their nines and their 10s. Going aerial for their kicks. They stick to it and as a player it can sometimes be a bit frustrating if it’s a tennis match,” the Ireland international explained at a press conference in Leinster on Monday.

“For us, we just have to make sure that we are patient and when we have our opportunities, we can take them. Maybe it’s early, maybe it’s late in the game that he could open up a bit. When it comes to kick tennis, that’s where, as a player, you have to be patient. It’s also hard work, there are a lot of back and forth races. Again, we just have to be patient.

While the presence of George Ford and Freddie Burns (brother of Ireland international Billy) means Dan Lancaster is unlikely to feature in Leicester’s Matchday 23, his father Stuart is doing everything in his power to plan their fall. Working for Leinster as a senior coach since 2016, the eldest Lancaster did not take part in the Eastern Province’s recent trip to South Africa for the URC showdowns against Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers .

Instead, he has remained at Leinster’s training base at UCD with a separate group of players – the majority of whom are expected to see significant playing time at Welford Road on Saturday. Henshaw was one of those who hadn’t traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, but the former England head coach made sure there was no slacking under his guidance.

“We had our legs run over by Stuart, which wasn’t nice! We’ve done a lot of conditioning work, a lot of contact work because we know Leicester are a big team with big ball carriers. We were sharp there. Just a lot of pressure stuff, getting ready for that aerial battle.

Henshaw had a stop-start season.

Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

“George Ford is going to kick a lot of our channels and people like Ben Youngs, [Richard] Wigglesworth with their box kicks. Do a lot of practice on this. There was a lot of racing and a lot of hard training, which was good. We sort of treated it like an add-on block. To improve our physical condition and ensure that we are ready to leave for Saturday.

After enjoying a great 2020/21 season for Leinster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, the current campaign has been quite frustrating for Henshaw. Due to a combination of factors, he has only featured six times for Leinster this season and started just two of Ireland’s eight games in the Autumn Nations Series and the Six. Nations Championship.


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That partly fueled his stellar performance in a demolishing Connacht Round of 16 second leg at the Aviva Stadium on April 15, when he scored two tries as Leinster finally shook off a tough encounter in Galway a week earlier to defeat his former side 82-41 on aggregate.

“I haven’t played much. It was a high and a low for me, kind of a stop-start. Definitely a little frustrating, but again, I just have to stick with the process. Trust that it will turn out well and end the season strong. That’s what I was looking forward to. Connacht was funny,” Henshaw acknowledged.

“There was that element of frustration in that game and it definitely passed that on to the Aviva. We knew we had to do better than what we did in Galway. is reflected in our performance.

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