Connacht fullback Robbie Henshaw is hoping to make his Ireland u-20s debut tomorrow evening at his home ground in Athlone.
The dynamic u-19 fullback, who featured in all Connacht's Heineken Cup matches, has been released from RaboDirect duty this weekend to enable him to play for the u-20s, and if u-20s head coach Mike Ruddock selects the former Marist College player, he will return to his home pitch for Friday Six Nations encounter with defending champions England.
Having played for the Irish Wolfhounds the previous week, Henshaw was unavailable for Ireland's opener against Wales and, although the RaboDirect takes precedence with Connacht playing the Scarlets this weekend, coach Eric Elwood said he had promised the youngster he would not stop him from having the opportunity to play national side.
"Before he was selected for the Wolfhounds, I told him I wanted him to have his u-20 cap because I was there and I know what it is like," said Elwood. "Let's be fair. We all said Robbie [Henshaw] was a special talent and once he got into our team, he was always going to go on to greater things."
A product of Buccaneers RFC, where he was coached by his father Tony from underage, he was also the first from Marist Athone to be play for Ireland Schools. It will be a huge occasion for Henshaw whose grandfather will be at Dubarry Park to watch him play for the first time.
"It will certainly be a huge occasion for Robbie, and I know his grandfather, who is in his late eighties, has never seen him play, so between getting his cap at home against England, in his home pitch, and with his granddad there, it is terrific. "
Elwood said Henshaw is an example of what young players can achieve if they are given regular playing time, which Connacht has offered.
" The reason Robbie [Henshaw] is where he is, is because he has been playing regular football at the highest level in the Rabo and in Europe. People might say I am only banging my own drum in Connacht, but it's all about regular football. We had a good campaign in Europe by our standards - three from six - and Robbie has produced some brilliant individual performances which have propelled him to where he is and I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on to greater things before the year is out.
“ He was comfortable in the Wolfhounds and hopefully he will get his cap for the u-20s this weekend."