British & Irish Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland has heaped praise on Robbie Henshaw in the wake of naming the team to face Japan on Saturday at Murrayfield.
Henshaw was picked in the outside centre channel – a spot he is expected to make his own in the tests against the Springboks next month.
Speaking to irishexaminer.com at the Lions’ Jersey base, Gatland made his opinions on the 28 year-old quite clear.
“I thought Robbie was the outstanding midfielder in the Six Nations,” Gatland said.
“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 be partnered by Bundee Aki – a selection which raised many eyebrows in the initial squad announcement, but could prove to be a shrewd move by Gatland and his coaching team. Aki and Henshaw were midfield partners for Connacht and have been regular starters for Ireland as well over the years.
“That combination obviously goes back to the Connacht days. It's the two Connacht lads coming together and I think they are obviously great mates as well, so that kind of 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.”