It was confirmed yesterday that Robbie Henshaw is moving to Leinster next season, in a move that has come as a major blow to Connacht.
Henshaw has led the charge as the western province sit at the summit of the Pro12 table. Pat Lam’s side are likely to be competing in the European Champions Cup next season, and this will be key as they bid to keep their top talents at home, as well as to attract new stars.
However, Henshaw’s departure casts all of this into doubt.
There is a romantic notion that it is possible for Connacht to have some of the country’s best players, and the four provinces to compete at the highest level. This however will remain a dream until several players of international quality remain in the west for the entirety of their careers, and drive the team on to sustained success.
The 22 year-old’s switch to Leinster is further proof that there is not a level playing field between the Irish provinces.
However, the question must now be posed: where to now for both Henshaw and Leinster?
Henshaw has established himself as one of the top centres in the northern hemisphere, and will not struggle to get game-time at the RDS. However, this will have a knock-on effect throughout the squad. Currently, Leo Cullen selects his centres from a list featuring Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, Ben Te’o, Ian Madigan and Isa Nacewa.
Will this move stem the growth of Ringrose? The youngster is regarded as a future Ireland centre, but may now have limited action again next season, despite the impending departures of Te’o and Madigan.
It is an argument that this writer has mentioned before: why can’t the IRFU intervene to split the country’s resources and ensure that all the best players are at a side where they play consistently?
For instance, the midfield at Ulster is currently stacked with talent. Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave and Jared Payne are all impressing, while the return of Stuart Olding means that five of the best centres in Ireland are competing for two positions.
Meanwhile, in the south of the country, Munster are relying on a foreign import in the form of Francis Saili to prop up their midfield alongside Rory Scannell, another potential international.
This is not healthy for Irish rugby as a whole.
Will limited action see Ringrose look for a move? He wouldn’t be the first Leinster back to end up at Munster. Andrew Conway, Ian Keatley and Felix Jones have all furthered their careers with a move south.
Similarly, Eoin Reddan and Mike Ross did not break into the Ireland side until they joined the Dublin 4 side, having been surplus to requirements at Munster.
Spreading resources is good for Irish rugby as a whole. Meanwhile players remaining on the bench without seeing regular action will not progress.
Robbie Henshaw’s switch east is a good move for Robbie Henshaw, but a bad one for Irish rugby.
Read More About: centre, connacht, darren cave, Ireland, irish rugby, jared payne, Leinster, luke marshall, midfield, robbie henshaw, starting place, stuart mccloskey, Stuart Olding, Top Story, ulster