Updated 15:05 14th February
With Robbie Henshaw's departure from Connacht now confirmed. Leinster has been the move that has been long touted, and it did make sense in the past. Leinster have loaned several players to Connacht in the last number of years - Conor Gilsenan, John Cooney, and Quinn Roux, with most believing that this was to pave a move for Henshaw to move east.
But Henshaw's next move shouldn't be to Leinster. That wouldn't be good for any party involved. It wouldn't be good for Leinster. It wouldn't be good for Henshaw. It wouldn't be good for Irish Rugby.
A move to Leinster may have made sense when Brian O'Driscoll left - they had a gaping void at centre that needed to be filled. But that void isn't there any more. With Luke Fitzgerald or Noel Reid suiting up at inside centre Henshaw is more likely to play in his natural outside centre position. But that doesn't even account for the young talent coming through.
Garry Ringrose has broken through into the first team this season, and the 21-year-old has made it clear he's here to stay. Do you really want Henshaw coming in and blocking Ringrose from continuing his promising development? It's unlikely that Fitzgerald will be pushed aside to accomodate Ringrose should Henshaw arrive - and that doesn't even take into account the exceptional 2015/16 form of Noel Reid.
Even if the idea is to pair Ringrose and Henshaw together - would it work? Henshaw was long touted as the next Brian O'Driscoll - with size- and it's not hard to see why. His timing cutting down defences, and his footwork, skill and speed are similar to O'Driscoll in his pomp. But Ringrose has those exact same quality. Don't be fooled by Henshaw's under-utilisation for Leinster, he's more than a 6'4'' battering ram. He thrives in space - but the same space that Ringrose needs. Pairing those two together would be like putting Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield. Great on paper, doesn't work in practise.
Leinster have enough options - and Irish qualified options - without adding more and hindering everyone. Either the vast potential of Ringrose would be affected, or the amount of game-time that Henshaw gets would suffer. It wouldn't be the first time a star player for Connacht travelled West only to sit on the bench. It's what happened to Fionn Carr, Sean Cronin, and Mike McCarthy.
Can Irish Rugby or Henshaw afford that?
Young players need to be given game-time to develop, and they should be in an environment that improves their skills. Is Henshaw better off moving to Leinster whose backline has dazzled approximately twice since Joe Schmidt left for the national job three seasons ago? He'd be better off staying in Connacht and continue the impressive skills development under Dave Ellis. Connacht are top of the try-scoring table in the Pro 12 and are playing some wonderful rugby. Meanwhile, Leinster are relying on one-out runners, and shovelling the ball out to a flat back-line relying on the footwork of Fitzgerald or Ringrose. They need more than the trademark Johnny Sexton loop to unlock defences. It's improving in recent months, but the Matt O'Connor malaise is still there.
Is that beneficial to Henshaw? Would that be beneficial to Irish Rugby? Should we not be spreading out our resources - with Ringrose and Henshaw playing on different teams?
Isn't that what we all want?
Henshaw's move shouldn't block another quality Irish talent in the process.
Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE