Henshaw to answer Ireland’s Call
When Brian O’Driscoll made his debut for Ireland teletext was faster than the internet, nobody had ever heard of Simon Cowell and Galway footballers were winning All-Ireland’s.
This Six Nations shall be his last and somehow Joe Schmidt will have to work next season without the man recognised as our greatest ever sportsman and the top outside centre in world rugby who would be an automatic starter on any team in the world – except last year’s Lions finale, but we’re not bitter Mr Gatland!
John Mulholland has drawn up a market on who will try to replace the irreplaceable and Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw heads the betting. At 20 years of age he looks our best long-term bet despite playing much of his rugby at full back instead of outside centre.
He has explosive footwork, fast hands and it would be great to see him remain in this seasons Irish Squad to be mentored by the great man himself. He needs to play more for Connacht at 13 and improve his defensive reads, but will Connacht’s financial pressure mean he may go east soon?
Another contender who many rugby types are hyping is another full-back who thrives at outside centre. Ulster’s Kiwi Jared Payne will be naturalised in September but at 28 years of age he would simply be a stop-gap for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. Keith Earls had said before he wants to play 13 instead of wing but his best performances indicate the opposite. Luke Fitzgerald is O’Driscoll’s understudy but needs to stay injury free to return to that early promise.
Outsiders to consider are Ulster’s Darren Cave but if it was going to happen for him it would have already and he may soon need to fend off his young teammate Stuart Olding when he returns from injury.
Odds to start at 13 for first match of Six Nations 2015: 9/4 Henshaw, 5/2 Payne, 3/1 Fitzgerald, 9/1 Olding, 12/1 Earls, 25/1 Cave
FBD and beyond
Galway just missed out on Sunday’s FBD final but I’d take a win the following week in Division two over any pre-season silverware. The fixture list has thrown up a really tough start for Alan Mulholland’s men with Meath away in week one followed by Donegal at home the following week. A measure of how tight this division will be sees Galway priced up at the same odds to be relegated as to win promotion, at 2/1.