Irish centre Robbie Henshaw insists he feels fresh and focused as he attempts to force his way back into Andy Farrell’s starting XV for the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations.
Henshaw was arguably one of Ireland's standout performers last season and began all three British and Irish Lions Tests against South Africa in the summer.
But progress since returning from Lions duty has been hampered by injuries, leaving the influential 28-year-old on the periphery of Farrell’s team on the back of just three appearances for Leinster this term.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 17, 2022
“It’s been a bit of a rocky one for me this year,” said Henshaw, who came off the bench for Ireland in last weekend’s 30-24 loss to France.
“I feel fresh, to be honest, so I’m ready to go, ready to step forward now.
“Obviously the stop-start season for me hasn’t been ideal but hoping for a stronger finish to the second half of the season.
“My body feels good, mentally I feel good, I feel sharp, so it’s exciting.”
Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose have impressed as the first-choice midfield partnership in four of Ireland’s last five Tests, including the opening two rounds of the championship.
Henshaw’s only international start during that time came in the 53-7 win over Argentina in the final match of the autumn when Aki was rested as a precaution.
Following fitness issues, he was absent from Farrell’s matchday squad for the opening Six Nations victory against Wales – with Ulster’s James Hume preferred among the replacements – before returning with a 17-minute cameo in Paris.
Ireland resume the tournament at home to Italy a week on Sunday and Henshaw, who has 54 caps, accepts he may have to be patient.
“It’s about waiting for your opportunity first and foremost,” he said.
“The lads are going really well, fair play to them. It’s been a good start and they’ve been building.
“But for me it’s just stick to my process, what’s worked for me, I’ve big confidence in that.
“Don’t try and force things, just do the right thing in training and stay positive. All I can worry about is me and making sure I do the right thing.”
After hosting the Italians at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland travel to England on March 12th before completing the Six Nations a week later at home to Scotland.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 13, 2022
With Grand Slam dreams over following the trip to the Stade de France, Henshaw wants to quickly move on.
“We can definitely draw a line in the sand and take a step forward and take all the learnings from that game,” he said.
“A couple of weeks after Italy, you travel to Twickenham and it’s another really, really intense environment and some guys might not have played there before in a full stadium and it’s up there with the Stade de France.
“Definitely we will learn from it and we’ll roll our sleeves up for Italy next week, who we always know are a really difficult challenge. They’ll definitely test us physically.”