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Gatland wanted Henshaw for Wales

30th October 2013 12:25

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Robbie Henshaw Connacht 2012

Targeted: Robbie Henshaw

Warren Gatland admits he asked Connacht back Robbie Henshaw if he had any qualifications to play for Wales last year.

Henshaw, who has played primarily at outside centre and full-back for the province in the opening games of the season, caught the eye of the Wales and British and Irish Lions coach after arriving on the professional scene straight from school a year ago.

"I saw him when we were over here with the Lions and that was before he was capped," Gatland told Galway Bay FM.

"I asked him if he had any Welsh qualifications. I said: 'I'll cap you if they don't do it quick enough'".

The Kiwi also claims that cases like Henshaw, who has made the Ireland squad for the November Tests, prove the value in retaining Connacht as a professional side.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for Connacht, having started here and having lived here for a number of years," added Gatland.

"As a national coach, and I'm sure Joe Schmidt knows this, the last thing you want to do is dilute the base. You see a youngster like Henshaw coming through and making it to the Irish squad.

"I think there is an opportunity for young men to progress through Connacht's ranks.

"I know Connacht has been useful as a development province, but they have played in the Heineken Cup and produced some fantastic players. Some have gone through Connacht and on to play for Leinster and Munster and have been really successful as well."

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