Iain Henderson is looking forward to returning to Ulster colours on Friday night against the Dragons at Ravenhill in the RaboDirect PRO12.
The former Queen’s loose forward has made three appearances for Ireland from the bench during the Six Nations campaign and starts in the second row Ulster against the Welsh region.
Henderson said: “With my injury at the start of the season I didn’t get involved with the autumn internationals.
“Game time is key for me because I need to get some more fitness under my belt which is vital for playing rugby at this level.
“I was meant to play against the Scarlets a couple of weeks ago at Ravenhill but it was postponed and that was frustrating for me so getting game time this week is vital for me to progress.
“If you don’t play throughout the Six Nations or you’re on the bench or you’re 24th or 25th man you can go seven or eight weeks without playing any rugby and that is almost like a whole down season.”
Henderson added: “Joe wants us to get game time, I’d talk more to John Plumtree, more about work-ons and things that I need to add to my game.
With Peter O’Mahony sitting out Irish training at Newforge yesterday Henderson ran the blindside flanker patterns and has a chance of starting against Italy at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday if he catches the eye for Ulster.
“You know in every game you have got to play well and make an impression and make the management think that he is good enough to play here and that is one thing that when you are playing for Ulster you are trying to do,” added Henderson.
“When you get the opportunity you have to show that you are able to play at international level and you have the game fitness to play at this level.”
“If you are brought into the starting line up you should know and be prepared to come in anywhere they need to.”
Henderson is enjoying training under the Schmidt regime.
“Everything is upped a gear and we are trying to get our detail to attention a lot better where in year’s past we may have let those opportunities go so it’s all about making the most of the opportunities like trying to make that extra two metres in the tackle off trying to get an offload.”
“In certain aspects Joe is the best coach I’ve worked under, you are put under a lot of pressure and you need to know your detail because there is no hanging about on the training pitch, we are only on the pitch for 45 minutes but you have to make sure those 45 minutes are spot on and everything is correct, if they are not correct you are still come in and you haven’t got the work done.”
“I know some of the Ulster players have brought it back up into Ulster training, Mark Anscombe also demands high standards, everybody goes back to their province and tries to make sure everything is done perfectly.
Henderson was happy with his impact from the bench at Twickenham last week.
“Ball carrying is one of the strengths of my game and that is what I try to do and I am working on other aspects, when I came on I wanted to get my hands on the ball and try and make a few gain lines and try a get a break and get some points.”