Chris Henry looks for disciplined Ulster performance in Euro tie

Ulster's Chris Henry
Ulster's Chris Henry

While some players shy away from the hype before a big game, Ireland and Ulster flanker Chris Henry enjoys it and this week is one he is relishing.

Ulster face Saracens on Saturday in their first home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup since 1999 and in front of the new refurbished Ravenhill, and Henry believes the players can feed off the occasion.

“To be honest, I don’t want to play the emotion down. I think it gets the best out of us. Look at some our big games over the last couple of years and it’s the European Cup games that get the best of us,” said Henry

“At the start of a European Cup week you need to feel the buzz and excitement and it’s no different this week.

“I wouldn’t try to play any of it down. If it means an awful lot to a player you should be thinking about it in this way and you should be feeling the butterflies and the pressure.

“Pressure brings the best out of player and big players stand up in big games, I’ve no doubt we’re going to rise to the occasion this weekend.

“No matter what people say you have been thinking about this game for a long time. Saracens are a quality side, but I think we are too.

“You can use all the excuses you want but last year our injury profile wasn’t great and guys were just coming back and not at their full form.

“There are no excuses this year as the team is fit and healthy.

He added: “This is it now, this is our final, it’s going to be the measure of how successful this year will be.

“We said at the start of the year we wanted to get a home quarter-final and now we’ve got it and the carrot is sitting there for us.

“Now we’ve the chance to beat one of the top sides to book our place in the semi-final so you couldn’t have asked for more.”

Against Edinburgh and Cardiff Ulster have shipped yellow cards and in Europe Henry knows it’s paramount to keep 15 men on the pitch for 80 minutes and the overall discipline has to be good or Owen Farrell will punish them.

“Losing a player for 10 minutes against this side means they are going to put points on you and it will make it such hard work for the other players to dig in,” said Henry.

“Last week, Dan went and put his hands up to say it was a silly penalty. But as we’d given away six or seven before that the referee probably had no choice.

“We do try to be a disciplined side and that’s going to be a very big factor if the emotions are running high.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to be a massive physical battle but we’ve got to be switched on and have our heads right and have that focus to channel our energy in the right way.

“We want to get them rattled so it is their discipline which slips and we can take advantage,” he added.

“We’ve an ambitious team and I think we’ve got great potential to achieve but unfortunately it just doesn’t happen.”

“Any big European game we’ve won, the Leicesters and even think back to the Munster quarter-final, they happened because of our intensity and physicality was right up there.”

“On our day we’re up there with the best of them it just means we’ve got to get it all right to bring it with us this weekend.”

With a few players leaving at the end of the season this is the current squad’s last chance to achieve something.

“John (Afoa), Tom (Court) and Johann (Muller) are big players in our pack and of course for us to go and win something with them leaving would be very special.”

“It would be a good side plot but not the main focus. I would love to help them achieve something but more so myself, I would desperately want to win something too.”

“The last two months has shown me what can be achieved and now I want to go forward and win this quarter-final.”

Ulster suffered defeat at Cardiff last week and Henry reckons it was a wake up call a head of Saracens.

“It was one of those ones where we had talked about our discipline and our penalty count atrocious.”

“It was error upon error. At the end of the game people put their hands up, myself I felt it took me a half to get into the game and other lads I’m sure would say the same thing.”

“It wasn’t what we wanted and we showed a lot of character and heart to come back into it in the second half but unfortunately it was just too late.”

“Last year we went into the Sarries game after beating Leinster which was a fantastic performance and one of the best of the year and then we went to Sarries and didn’t perform so hopefully this year’s reversal (of fortune) will stand to us.”

“I’ve no doubt that this week the boys will turn up,” smiled Henry.