Iain Henderson making up for lost time with Ulster

Ulster's Iain Henderson
Ulster's Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson is hoping to kick start his season by helping Ulster top their Heienken Cup pool with a victory over Leicester at Welford Road on Saturday evening.

Henderson was named in Joe Schmidt’s extended squad for the Six Nations but he’ll be on the bench for Ulster against the tigers.

“It’s difficult to get into the game, my first year with Ireland U20’s I came off the bench in every game and found it awful trying to get into a game that has been going for 65 minutes and trying to make an impact then you are trying to catch your second wind I find it harder to catch your breath coming off the bench because everything is so fast,” say Henderson.

“I’m improving that part of the game and making myself more of an impact from the bench and make myself suited for an Irish team.”

Having suffered an injury hit season Henderson was happy to get the Ireland call.

“I was always in the back of my mind, I thought if I wasn’t selected it would be good that I could get some game time and show what I could do and I was looking at the positive side.”

“With Sean gone it will open it up a bit but I’m just looking to get some good time this week, if I’m in the Wolfhounds I just need to make sure I’m doing a good job there but I can’t direct it now.”

While Henderson has had a couple of injures he hasn’t let it get him down especially as he shares at house with Stuart Olding.

“I tore my hamstring against Edinburgh, I found it very frustrating at the time but I live with Stuart Olding so I just needed to look across the sofa at him with his cast on and his foot up and it is unfortunate for him.”

“I’ve looked at the likes of Chris Henry and he has never really had a serious injury, my injuries have been more niggly like five weeks, Stuart’s is a nine month injury and thankfully I’ve had nothing like that, all you can is your rehab and look to get fit and get more game time.”

Henderson made his return in the Munster game and came up against Paul O’Callaghan and Donnach O’Callaghan.

“I was supposed to be on the bench for that match then Johann strained his calf during that week and it was a good one to come to, it was fantastic to get the win.”

“It was a big Munster pack we were playing against and even BJ coming off the bench, they managed to maul us over but that is something we have been working on because we know that is something Leicester will be looking to do us.”

Ulster have conceded three tries in their last two matches from rolling mauls and Henderson knows if they are to be successful at Welford Road they will have to stop the Tigers pack.

“We have been talking a fair bit about discipline to stop Leicester getting their maul we have to it around the middle of the pitch to stop them kicking to the corners and letting get the driving maul on the go.”

“I think that was just a miscommunication (Montpellier’s try) with Craig coming forward and somebody was meant to be chasing back behind but it was just a minor slip up that will be corrected.”

“You try not to let it get set to start with, you either sack it or completely blitz it, you try not to give away a penalty of a driving maul by stopping it instead of pulling of down, when you twist it to one side that’s when they will start to peel off the like of Tom Youngs will be hanging off it and loves to run off the back of mauls, we just have to sit in and hold it square and let the ref see it has stopped and force the scrum half to play the ball.”

It was a long hard video session after the Munster game.

“We looked at their maul in two aspects, they have a very successful maul and that is where we’d like ours to be and even though they look messy they have very good unity and they can scraps into whatever they want.”

“We reviewed it heavily and how we would defend it differently, we were going in in ones and twos and some people were looking to sack when others were looking to drive and we need to get a bit more clarity on what we want to do.”

Munster were the last team to beat Leicester at Welford in Europe during the 2006/7 season and with the incentive of a home quarter final at stake Henderson is hoping Ulster can repeat their success at Ravenhill earlier in the season.

“If we go to Welford Road and get the win I think we’ll get Leicester at Ravenhill in the quarter final, it’s cup final rugby and both have everything to play for and that goes to show how tight the group stages are and how much we need to win.”

“You just have to do the best you can do.”

“They are a reputable team with a big pack they are going to scrum, maul and kick to the corners, we’ll try our best to overturn their home record.

Henderson has been deployed in the second and back rows but at the stage of his career he is just happy to get on the pitch.

“I prefer backrow but being as young as I am anytime on the pitch is experience and I need as much as possible, the more experience I get hopefully the better player I can make myself.”