Gatland Praises “World-Class” Ireland International Ahead Of British & Irish Lions Curtain-Raiser

World-class.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland believes Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw was the “outstanding midfielder” in the Six Nations this year after a stellar campaign from the Leinster centre.

Henshaw is in the form of his life and is ‘nailed on’ to start against the Springboks for most people with England captain Owen Farrell pipped to partner him in midfield with Henshaw at thirteen, where he will start against Japan this weekend.

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Gatland has been watching Henshaw closely after bringing him to New Zealand back in 2017, a tour that was cut short before the Test series for the 28-year-old because of a shoulder injury.

The Lions head coach is particularly impressed with how much Henshaw has improved his aerial game, an area that is quickly becoming one of his strongest attributes.

“I thought Robbie was the outstanding midfielder in the Six Nations,” Gatland told us.

“He’s great in the air. I have seen him develop, improve and mature from four years ago. That’s been probably one of the biggest highlights for me, just in terms of how he has developed into an absolute world-class midfielder.”

Henshaw will have a familiar partner in midfield this weekend with Ireland teammate Bundee Aki named inside him. The pair have lined out together for both Connacht and Ireland and will now do it on the biggest stage of them all with the British and Irish Lions.

“That combination obviously goes back to the Connacht days,” Gatland added.

“It’s the two Connacht lads coming together and I think they are obviously great mates as well so that kinda helps.

“A lot of people sort of see Bundee as someone – and we know he is capable of getting the ball across the gain-line, but he’s got a lot more than just that to offer.

“He has got some real rugby skill, some great footwork and a passing and offloading game. So, we are expecting some real quality rugby out of both of those two men.”

The Lions take on Japan in Murrayfield this Saturday with a 3pm kick-off.