Iain Henderson knows Ulster must produce their best yet in PRO12 semi-final

Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson discuss the PRO12 semi at the media conference at Ravenhill
Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson discuss the PRO12 semi at the media conference at Ravenhill

For a fourth consecutive year Ulster face Leinster in a knockout game at the business end of the season.

Leinster won the PRO12 semi-final in 2011, the Heineken Cup final in 2012 and the PRO12 final at the RDS last May, but Ireland loose forward Iain Henderson is hoping Ulster’s luck will change when the sides meet in the last four of this season’s PRO12 Championship in Dublin on Saturday night.

“It’s another derby at this end of the season and it will be a tough match and there is no doubting that,” said Henderson.

“And what will make it even tougher is that it’s a derby and everyone will be trying to put their hand up for a place on the Irish tour.

“The way they came up here two weeks ago and performed I think there is no reason why we shouldn’t believe we can’t do it.

“We nearly did it with 14 men that day and if we can get right what we got wrong in the final last season, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to overturn them and get into the final.”

In the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham Ulster went down 42-14 while in the PRO12 final last year there was only a six-point losing margin.

“Year on year we seem to be getting closer and we haven’t quite got there yet,” said Henderson.

“This year with the rugby we have played against Leicester at home and away we have shown we can play the rugby that can turn the big sides over.

“There is no reason we can’t do it if we get the things right that we have got wrong in the past.

“I think we have a good enough side bar a couple of injuries, most people are fit and after the performance against Munster last week those boys are fighting for their place and that has driven standards higher at training.”

Ulster have enjoyed victories at Leicester, Montpellier and Thomond Park this season and won in the league at the RDS last season so Henderson feels they have nothing to fear being on the road.

“We have shown that we can go to places and really good teams and win.

“It’s a case of maybe if we don’t get our heads in the right place that would be the only reason we’d lose.

“But we know if our heads are in the right place we can take them scrum time, we can take them maul time and we can take them up front and we know we have a world class set of backs and we can do a job on them there.

“You need to bully Leinster up front and not be bullied by them. In the past our breakdown has let us down and that is where the problem was last year.

“We didn’t get quick ball which didn’t let the backs do what they do best and I think the forwards let them down there.

“If we can go out and dominate them up front that will be a massive part of the way to beating them.”

Both sides are due to name their teams at noon today, but Henderson is likely to start in the second row with skipper, Johann Muller.

Leinster are top seeds are bottom seeds but the rankings meant nothing in the Heineken Cup were Ulster were No1 and Saracens were eighth.

“Last year we went through as top seeds and that didn’t work out that well for us, we won six out of six in the Heineken when a refs call doesn’t go your way that is the Heineken season over, after the Heineken everyone sat down and agreed we had the Rabo left and we want to get something out of the season especially for the likes of Johann who has plugged away here for four years and hasn’t got an awful lot to show for it bar a couple of runners up medals”

“It would be good for him and I’d absolutely love to win it for him and a good lot of the other boys will be putting a lot in this weekend to win it for him.”

Henderson is also craving more silverware after being part of Ireland’s Six Nations winning campaign.

“At schools level we got to the final and lost to Ballymena, they have been a few U20 tournaments and won the Carrick 7s a couple of times with a few guys from school apart for that nothing serious other than the Six Nations and that was good.”

“It was a few good weeks, unfortunately Dan Tuohy injured his arm and I was given the opportunity and I was able to take it.”