Chris Henry puts focus on silverware finish for club after Six Nations title success

Chris Henry poses with some fans during a recent Ireland training session in Belfast
Chris Henry poses with some fans during a recent Ireland training session in Belfast

Chris Henry will return to the Ulster shirt for the first time since the Heineken Cup win a Welford Road in January when he takes the field against Cardiff on Saturday night - and what a two months it’s been for the openside flanker.

Henry played in all bar 12 minutes of Ireland’s march to the Six Nations crown and bagged his first international try in the win over Wales.

He is still finding it hard to conceal the smile.

“It was an unbelievable and an incredible time for me, a lot of hard work and effort went in. It was touch and go in those last few minutes (Paris) and my heart sunk, it was fantastic and hopefully we can use it as a springboard for the end of the season,” said Henry.

“It was a race to get back fit with my hamstring. At that stage it was between me and Tommy O’Donnell.

“Fortunately for me the game against Munster went well and Joe (Schmidt) put a bit of faith in me and gave me a run of games, I just loved the experience.

“When you have a hamstring injury you always worry about a reaction and is it going again? But it’s been feeling great, my body is in great shape. Yes, it’s beaten up and bruised after the test matches which are a big step up but when you’re winning it doesn’t really matter.

“I took the Twickenham game very hard, I thought we were going there to win, I thought the game plan was good but a few things didn’t work for us. We bounced back well against Italy and then that performance in Paris.

“I felt it was a real squad effort and to pull off a result like that in Brian’s last Irish game it’s an experience I’ll never forget and Paris was magical.”

After his exertions in the Six Nations Henry sat out last week’s win at Edinburgh.

“I think mentally you’re drained from the whole spectacle, it was nice to get away I went to Manchester and Edinburgh for a few nights, It was great nobody really knew about rugby and I was able to keep the head down.”

“I managed to get over to watch the Ulster game, sitting with the crowd was pretty funny. The weather was horrendous and I sat there wrapped up with everybody. The amount of Ulster fans there was incredible, you hear it when you’re on the pitch your hear the fans but sitting in the stand gave me a different prospective on it.

“A lot of people made the effort to go out and watch that game and get behind the team in such miserable conditions it just made me realise again how crazy the Ulster fans are.”

In Henry’s absence Ulster have got themselves into a position to challenge for a top two finish in the Pro12.

“This is the time of the year when you can either flop or get back into the mix,” he said.

“Every year we want to be in the top four and the quarter finals, we now have a chance of a home semi final, so this week is massive we can’t slip up we need to keep the pressure on.”

“It’s hard not to think about Saracens but we have to focus what is there for us in the Pro12, to get a home semi final would be incredible.”

Saturday night’s game against Cardiff at the Arms Park will be the first time Henry has played a competitive game on an artificial pitch.

“There has been a bit about it especially among the back rowers on what type of boots to wear mouldies or studs, the front row have already said they will wear studs, it will be different but I think it will suit us. We like to move the ball, we’re not the biggest pack so we want to move teams around,” Henry added.

“We have got things we want to work on and we have to be prepared to put in a good performance to get us ready for Saracens.

“We haven’t been playing the prettiest rugby at times but luckily for us it has been enough to win games, good teams win playing poorly at times and for us now it is about trying to peak and putting in a decent performance.”

Cardiff will be without Lions captain Sam Warburton, but Henry will come up against a familiar face in the Blues back row in the form of Rob Copeland who will join Munster next season.

“I trained with Rob at the start of the Six Nations, I always knew he was a good player, he is a good ball carrier and that is his main threat so for me it will be a tough day at the office watching him,” he added.

“He’s a very good seven as well but you’re not going to come up against a poor backrow in any of the Pro12 teams, you have to make sure you’re switched on and do your homework and Copeland we’ll have to put two men on him with one going high and one going low and get him to ground early.”