No longer “the new Brian O’Driscoll”, ROBBIE HENSHAW is among the first names on the team-sheets for Leinster and Ireland – and also hopes to star for the Lions when they go to New Zealand this summer. The All Blacks, winning the Six Nations, music and dog-sitting are all on the agenda when Stuart Clark joins him on his and Jordi Murphy’s sofa.
Robbie Henshaw is emitting an impressive range of pained grandad noises, as he relaxes on his Monkstown sofa with the golden retriever, Kobe, that him and his housemate Jordi Murphy have been co-parenting.
“It was a really tough game with some big hits, so I’m aching all over,” he says of the previous night’s bruising 24-24 draw between Leinster and Castres Olympique over in France. “We were disappointed not to win, but I managed to get a couple of tries, which makes up for the battering!”
With Connacht losing 19-10 over in Toulouse, Leinster now have a tasty Champions Cup Quarter-Final home tie against Wasps to look forward to, at the start of April.
“We’re playing well enough at the moment to go all the way,” Robbie reckons. “It’s incredible the strength and depth we have in the squad. The final’s in Murrayfield, so if we do manage to battle our way through there’ll be a big ticket allocation.”
Also impressing against Castres was Garry Ringrose, the 21-year-old who, having forged a fearsome midfield partnership with Robbie at Leinster, will be hoping to line-up alongside him in the Six Nations too.
“Yeah, the partnership with Garry’s going brilliantly,” Robbie nods. “He’s quiet-ish off the pitch, but a really lovely, genuine, down-to-earth lad. You can have chats and the craic with him. Moving from Connacht to Leinster is my first major change of team and environment. One of the reasons that the transition has been less difficult than I thought it might be is having Garry to feed off. There’s a great rapport between us. I normally know what he’s going to do and watch his back, and vice versa. We’ve gotten to the point where we can read each other’s body language.”
After all the “new Brian O’Driscoll” comments that greeted his emergence at Connacht, our man couldn’t help but chuckle recently when Ringrose was referred to on radio as the “new Robbie Henshaw.”
“There are so many young guys coming through at Leinster that I’m actually considered a veteran at this stage!” he reflects. “It’s great to be looked up to as a kind of a leader and to know that I’ve a bit of experience whilst still being young. The ‘new Brian O’Driscoll’ thing was obviously meant as a compliment, but it does put a bit of extra pressure on you. You just have to put all that to one side and play your natural game, which is what Garry’s been doing.”
Add in fly-half Joey Carberry and second row Ross Molony, and you’ve a quartet of super-talented young players who can star for Ireland as well as Leinster.
“Joey made his debut against the All Blacks in Chicago, which was a real baptism of fire, and fitted in seamlessly. Looking at the game, you’d have thought he had a dozen caps. Garry started against Australia – another really tough game – and scored his first test try. Neither looked out of place at all. It just goes to show the talent Leinster have produced in their academy. You’ve two wingers who’ve come through the ranks, Rory O’Loughlin and Adam Byrne, who are on fire at the moment. The whole academy system in Ireland is top class.”
RUNNING OUT AT CROKE PARK
Robbie admits to still getting goosebumps when he thinks about that famous November 5 afternoon in Soldier Field, when the All Blacks were subjected to a 40-29 thumping.
“It took a couple of days to sink in, but then my Dad and his mate said, ‘They’ll be wheeling you out in 50 years to talk about it on TV’ and I thought, ‘Yeah, this is history, we’ve done something unique’. ”
What was the gist of Joe Schmidt’s team talk that day?
“We knew what we had to do and were quite relaxed and focused,” he recalls. “I think the figure of eight that we dedicated to Anthony Foley while the All Blacks were doing the Haka was a big statement from the get-go. That gave us a bit more spark in the game; we played with a lot of emotion.
“We really took them on in the pack; mauled them over, kept the foot on the throat and never let them back into it. They turned it on a bit in the second-half, but we didn’t really give them any space and always came back at them. The plan we’d come up with during the week was top class, and we just stuck to it.
“Going into the last 10 minutes, there were words from the coaches and the waterboys saying, ‘Don’t get too excited. Keep pinning them back and make them play out from their own 22’, which is tough to do. Jamie Heaslip and Joey Carberry, who’d come on for Johnny Sexton, were massive leaders and Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble were big voices in the backline for us. We maintained our concentration and composure right to the end, when Conor Murray brilliantly tackled Julian Savea on the line to give us a five-metre scrum. It’s as close as any of us will probably come to the perfect 80 minutes.”
Robbie insists that media reports of the All Blacks being sore losers that day were wide of the mark.
“Nobody enjoys losing,” he says, “but they were very humble, shook our hands and said, ‘Well done, we look forward to meeting you again in two weeks’. They were totally respectful.”
That respect extends to the man who organised New Zealand’s staging of the Rugby World Cup in 2011, Foreign Minister Murray McCully, saying that Ireland would be a “terrific place” to stage the 2023 competition.
“Having the World Cup here would be great for the players, the supporters and the economy,” Robbie enthuses. “I’d love it if some of the games were played around the country, in the likes of Pearse Stadium and Semple Stadium, which I know from my GAA days. I wouldn’t mind running out at Croke Park either!
“We’ve a chance to show what we can do in August, when we stage the Women’s World Cup. I haven’t been to many games, but I follow the Ireland team on TV and they’re doing great.”
FINDING THE ACHILLES HEEL
While some English pundits have been making a case for Ben Te’o, Robbie is most sane people’s choice for inside centre when the Lions head to New Zealand at the start of June. His Soldier Field heroics didn’t go unnoticed by Lions coach Warren Gatland, who told Sky Sports this month that, “Henshaw was outstanding in Chicago.” There was also a “He’s done a great job” big-up for Leinster prop Tadgh Furlong.
“I’d absolutely love another crack at the All Blacks; it’d be a dream come true,” Robbie says somewhat breathlessly. “To be involved with the Lions is a real goal of mine, but it’s a long season. We're in the middle of the Six Nations, and we’ve got to put our eggs in that basket now. Then we’re back to the Quarter Finals of the Champions Cup with Leinster, so there’s a lot of rugby to play before anybody can start thinking about New Zealand.
“I’m just trying to keep playing well, and doing my best for the team. I’m sure Tadgh’s attitude is the same; you’ve got to keep delivering for club and country.”
One of the drawbacks of getting a Lions call-up is that Robbie will miss his beloved U2 in Croker.
“I’ve been too busy to go to gigs recently, although there were a good few seisúns back home in Athlone over Christmas. I love getting together with the family and playing a few tunes on the accordion and the fiddle. My hero of heroes is Christy Moore.”
Following Ireland's defeat against Scotland, Robbie still expects fireworks from Wales in Ireland’s penultimate Six Nations game in Cardiff.
“The Millennium with the roof closed is the most unbelievable cauldron. I couldn’t believe the noise when I first played there. One of the Wales stats is that the longer you hold on to the ball against them, the less chance you have of scoring, because defensively they apply so much pressure. They put in big shots, so you need to be both physically and mentally tough against them.”
Going 0-10 down to Australia at Twickenham in December, and then recovering to beat them 37-21 showed how England can by turns be defensively inept and an unstoppable try-scoring machine.
“Let’s hope it’s the former when we play them in the Aviva,” Robbie laughs. “At home, especially, England have that ability to turn the screw in the final few moments and beat you. Like any team, I suppose, there are weaknesses when you analyse them in detail. Part of what makes Joe Schmidt such a great coach is that he’ll go over and over things with the technical team in order to find that Achilles heel. The attitude we have is that, ‘If we can beat the All Blacks, we can beat England’.”
WORKING ON HIS SUNTAN
Robbie’s second Autumn International run-out against New Zealand was prematurely curtailed when Sam Cane, who unbelievably escaped censure, shouldered him in the jaw. It was one of the catalysts for World Rugby subsequently cracking down on high tackles.
“I knew it was nothing serious, but seeing me stretchered off was very upsetting for my family,” he reflects. “Luckily I was able to gather myself and raise my thumb to let them know I was okay. I remember taking the ball and spinning at fast pace into the hit, which felt like running into a lorry. That was my first serious head knock in five years of playing senior rugby, so I’m not doing too badly.”
Does Robbie feel more protected this season now that the tackling rules have been revised?
“Yeah, it shows that World Rugby are serious about reducing concussions. We have to tackle lower, and stop hitting people high, which will reduce injuries.”
With referees being told to automatically card high tackles, it could be a moment’s indiscipline that costs a side the Six Nations.
“I think you’re right,” Robbie nods with the head that’s lucky to still be on his shoulders. “Every time you go out to play, whether with Ireland or Leinster, you’re told to keep the penalty count as low as possible. We’re looking to be squeaky-clean in order to stop the opposition gaining points or territory. Referees need to be consistent with their decisions, though. You can’t have somebody sent off for a high tackle in one game, and only yellow carded in another.”
Sadly, an anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up against the All Blacks in Chicago, means that Jordi Murphy will miss the Six Nations – and with it the chance to make the Lions squad. How’s the shacking up together going?
“There have been a few arguments over what music gets played – he likes upbeat dance tunes whereas I’m more into traditional Irish stuff – but we get along famously,” Robbie concludes. “It’s a long old process, but he’s a couple of months into his rehab and making good progress. He’s been over in LA working on his suntan, so I’ve been left holding the dog. Other than that, though, you’re talking domestic bliss!”
An international food festival is heading to Limerick, plus culinary adventures of the Dylan McGrath kind!Read More
As Tipp FM prepares to pay Easter Monday tribute to one of the Premier County's favourite sons, we recall his ZZ Top-playing MT-USA glory days...Read More
A new law allowing Irish breweries to sell beer in their own taprooms moved another step closer this month. Stuart Clark reports.Read More
Musically inclined beer festivals, designer whiskey, sweet beet hummus & the GastroGays are all on this fortnight’s menu.Read More
A celebrated sax-player who’s worked with Christy Moore, Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher, Keith Donald's extraordinary one-man show recalls not just his musical exploits, but also his encounters with alcoholism, paramilitaries and the Irish Special Branch.Read More
For many, George Best is the finest player to have ever pulled on a red or green jersey. Almost as devastating as his right-foot, though, were the demons that derailed his career. Both facets of his life are explored by Daniel Gordon in his All By Himself documentary.Read More
Stuart Clark looks at the new heroin-mimicking opiate linked to a recent Cork death, and separately, hears why fears about medically supervised injecting rooms being introduced here are unfounded.Read More
He may look harmless, but former Wallander screenwriter STEFAN AHNHEM is as bloodthirsty as crime novelists get. The Scandi bestseller talks cockroaches, national stereotypes and DepecheRead More
Ahead of Ireland's first Six Nations international with Scotland tomorrow, we chatted to Robbie Henshaw about the nation's prospects for the competition.Read More
Country’s next big thing is a Snoop-loving, Trump-hating former jailbird, whose burgeoning fan club includes Jack White. Stuart Clark meets the remarkable Margo Price.Read More
Stuart Clark hopped a plane to Havana in February 2001 to see the Manic Street Preachers perform in front of Fidel Castro. Along with Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield, he recalls what was going down at the time in Cuba.Read More
Not content with making it three league titles in a row, Dundalk embarked on a history-making European campaign, which resulted in Ireland call-ups for two of their players. Manager Stephen Kenny talks team tactics and coruscating indie rock anthems with Stuart Clark.Read More
Having captivated America with her co-starring role in Loving, Limerick actress Ruth Negga is among the bookies' favourite to win a Best Actress Oscar in February. Stuart Clark charts her dramatic rise.Read More
From Glaswegian riots to internecine court battles, New Order's is one of the great rock'n'roll stories. Stuart Clark meet the man who spares no blushes telling it....Read More
It wasn’t just the execrable Donald Trump that tens of millions of Americans voted for, with marijuana referenda passed on both coasts.Read More
The pair previously met in DublinRead More
Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine and California have all said "yes" to its recreational use.Read More
Dublin-bound with his singer wife Judith Owen, Harry Shearer talks This Is Spinal Tap, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and warmongering US presidential candidates with Stuart Clark who resists the temptation to stick a cucumber down his Y-fronts.Read More
Part of the classic Kraftwerk line-up that wowed Bowie and kickstarted hip hop, the RDS-bound Wolfgang Flür is still making wonderfully innovative music.Read More
Normally a Republican stronghold, Texas has become one of the fiercest Presidential battlegrounds, with Donald Trump's lead over Hillary Clinton rapidly dwindling. Alt-right talk show hosts, errant libertarians and Satan himself star in an election story worthy of the great Hunter S. himself.Read More
Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, David Bowie & Lemmy are paid tribute to on the lead singleRead More
Our man on the sofa, Stuart Clark, looks forward to Netflix’s new Ugly Betty-style comedyRead More
Bruce Springsteen has spent his whole life battling with depression.Read More
Heroes In Hiding, Marc O'Reilly, Drive-By Truckers & Run The Jewels supply the back-up!Read More
They may be the Kings Of Britpop, but Oasis’ roots lie firmly in Ireland. As the band’s Supersonic documentary hits the big-screen, Stuart Clark, relives the magical moments Hot Press has had with the Gallaghers.Read More
Quality tuneage is also provided by Auxiliary Phoenix, Action Bronson & Flaming LipsRead More
Vogue are also tipping the Dubliner to become a Prada muse.Read More
The North Norfolk Digital star is sparing no blushes as he puts his beloved Britain to rights.Read More
We've also side-orders of Hayley Bonar, Gucci Mane, Jack White & The Radio Dept.Read More
We've also side-orders of Hayley Bonar, Gucci Mane, Jack White & The Radio Dept.Read More
Bruce's right-hand man is getting his Disciples of Soul back togetherRead More
Waterboy Steve Wickham & Shane MacGowan both guest on the parent albumRead More
As we get ready to unleash our Definitely Mayo (ouch!) retrospective, here are the chaps giving us exceedingly good quote...Read More
Saturday Night Live are also giving the American Mr. Pussy a hard timeRead More
A new Dublin venue, on the site of the old McGonagles in Sth. Anne Street, will put a strong emphasis on Irish musicRead More
Belfast & Dublin are both in for visits next February.Read More
The superstar rapper is over next February.Read More
The seasonal annual will be hitting shelves before Christmas.Read More
Pat Kenny was the Lifetime Achievement recipient at last night's gala affair in Dublin.Read More
The four Hall of Fame inductees include Dave FanningRead More
AC/DC, Snow Patrol, Metallica, Leonard Cohen & U2 are some of the names being bandied around...Read More
Jerry Fish is among the first acts to climb aboard The BoweryRead More
L7, The Ruts DC, James Vincent McMorrow & Neil Hannon are among the supporting cast!Read More
The RTÉ star was in the Big Apple for International Bridal Fashion Week.Read More
U2 fans might recognise the location!Read More
There's also an album, pop-up shop & free gig to look forward to next week!Read More
U2 passed on a message to the Republican candidate from the Irish people...Read More
Shirley Manson & Krist Novoselic are among those paying tribute to the riot grrrlsRead More
They were recorded guerrilla-style on tour.Read More
We've also got footage of her Dive Bar tour stop-off in Nashville.Read More
Which is excellent news for the two million who tuned into the pilot!Read More
It's a must-listen for Boss fans!Read More
They're gracing the Big Top in November.Read More
Between The Jigs And Reels includes a treasure trove of rarities.Read More
The intimate Blackrock restaurant was one of the Best Newcomers in our Best Of Dublin specialRead More
Needless to say, Peter is in the thick of the action!Read More
It's a fascinating insight into Belfast's legendary '70s punk sceneRead More
He joined Bonehead for a riotous post-screening Supersonic Q+A.Read More
There's also quality fare from White Lies, New Valley Wolves & Auxiliary Phoenix.Read More
The double-whammy taster has us all psyched up for new album, Friends!Read More
They'll be showcasing their new album in the Olympia in February.Read More
Ryan is also being joined by Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Peña and Jason McAteerRead More
'Party Like A Russian' finds him back with a Putin-esque bang!Read More
'Around The World' finds the band firing on all southern boogie cylinders.Read More
Come November one of them could be ten grand better off!Read More
It features the pick of her 2014 Hammersmith Apollo performancesRead More
The track is breaking records all over the world!Read More
Strap yourself in for a full-blooded rock 'n' roll ride!Read More
Reports suggest that a €405 million deal is in the offingRead More
Dublin-bound for a very special Hennessy Lost Fridays gig, superstar DJ and producer DAVID HOLMES talks about working with Noel Gallagher; the music and people that have inspired his Late Night Tales mix, and swapping Hollywood for Belfast.Read More
Entertaining if flawed documentary on the Fab FourRead More
A new wave of female-driven drama is hitting Irish screens, big and small. Stuart Clark meets Stefanie Preissner, the writer of RTÉ dramedy Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope and one of its stars, Seána Kerslake, who’s also wowing audiences in A Date For Mad Mary.Read More
Padraig O Griallais is the fifth generation of his family to make poitín - and the first to do it legally! Using an 1800s recipe that has been passed down from father to son,the former Connemara school teacher has set up micro-distilling shop at the back of the Oslo, which used to house the Galway Bay brewery. Despite weighing in at a hefty 44% ABV, there’s a real complexity of flavour with the bogbean botanicals giving Micil both gin and vodka-like characteristics. A big hit at last weekend’s Irish Craft Beer festival, it’s great in cocktails with several sussed Dublin mixologists using it instead of whiskey in their sours. We’re partial to it neat on the rocks, and with a generous dash of cloudy lemonade if we’re trying to pace ourselves. Expect to pay around €36.99 for a 50cl bottle in the likes of the Celtic Whiskey Store on Dublin 2’s Dawson Street.Read More
New Order's killer new album was on the on the agenda for Electric Picnic as Stuart Clark talks to Gillian Gilbert.Read More
All four corners of Ireland are being visited!Read More
It's a marathon rather than a sprint, but Team Hop Press managed to get around an impressive number of standsRead More
Julian Farino of Entourage fame is directingRead More
Anything Barney and Hooky can do...Read More
The Dunfermline punk legends are celebrating their 40th birthday here next MayRead More
Team Hop Press are hosting a series of free panel discussions; here's the line-up!Read More
Tickets go on sale at 9am this FridayRead More
There's a seriously tasty red limited-edition vinyl version!Read More
The Smith and the Cranberry are discussing their new D.A.R.K. projectRead More
'You're Dead' has us pumped up for their Be Honest And Fear Not album...Read More
She's running round the country in October & NovemberRead More
Following her Electric Picnic stormer, the Cavan singer is playing her biggest Dublin headliner yetRead More
Day One at Stradbally was an absolute belter!Read More
The ABC legend was in sparkling form!Read More
Gillian Gilbert says the band are in top form ahead of their Electric Picnic headlinerRead More
The Trinity Orchestra lead the way with their Saturday set of classicsRead More
Booka Brass Band, Sean Moncrieff & New Valley Wolves are also on the HP radar!Read More
Margaret Glaspy, Lana Del Rey and Nathaniel Rateliff are also on the Stradbally menuRead More
ABC, Nas, Whilk & Misky and the Super Furries are all on his 'must-see' list!Read More