RUGBY: Ulster star Henderson faces mad dash home from Lions tour for wedding

British and Irish Lions' forward Iain Henderson
British and Irish Lions' forward Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson’s six weeks in New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions must surely top the list of unorthodox stag dos.

The Ireland lock is busy helping Warren Gatland’s Lions gear up for the three-Test series against the All Blacks that starts on June 24.

The Lions’ final tour clash will come against New Zealand in Auckland on July 8 – and then Henderson will start a mad dash back to Belfast in time for his wedding.

The 25-year-old will not get back home until July 12, just two days before he marries fiancee Suzanne Flanagan, his former Belfast Royal Academy school friend.

“I think the Ulster boys are getting back in to Belfast at about 8pm on July 12 and I’m getting married at noon on July 14,” said Henderson, who started against the Highlanders this morning.

“I’ve somehow managed to cut that as fine as possible. As far as I’m aware all the wedding planning is going very smoothly.

“Outside of that I’m glad to be sleeping during day-time hours at home so I don’t have to worry about any of that!”

And what plans do the future Mr and Mrs Henderson have cooked up for the honeymoon? That’s right, another long-haul flight.

“It will definitely be tight enough getting back home jet-lagged and then going on honeymoon over to Singapore,” said Henderson.

“So that week between the 12th and 16th will definitely be sleepless.

“I don’t know whether I’ll be tired or not. I’ll have to just wait and see how that comes, and hopefully it will all work out fine.”

Joking aside, friends and families of Lions stars certainly help facilitate such a huge undertaking halfway round the world from home, where the tourists are chasing just their second-ever Test series win against the All Blacks.

With history on the line, Henderson knows the magnitude of every minute in the famed Lions jersey when it comes to contesting Test match selection.

Henderson will pack down alongside his Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best against the Highlanders, and backed the gritty hooker to show his Test-match credentials.

“I don’t think anyone can argue when someone’s got over 100 caps for their country that they can’t put their hand up and push for a Test start,” said Henderson of 34-year-old Best.

“He’s one of the first names on Ireland’s team sheet. Rory and I were in training together before leaving for the tour, and his mental toughness just shone through again.

“He runs the legs off me and other boys. He’s not the fastest, but he’ll push himself and keep on going and you’ll not get him stopped.

“I can take off quicker than him, but he’ll keep on pushing and push past me. That mental toughness sets him apart.”

p Andy Farrell believes the Lions will be in no rush to call up a replacement if Stuart Hogg is ruled out of the New Zealand tour.

Luckless Scotland full-back Hogg collided accidentally with Conor Murray’s elbow in Saturday’s 12-3 win over the Crusaders.

Jared Payne slotted in at 15 for this morning’s Highlanders clash, with Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson also comfortable at full-back - and Leigh Halfpenny also a specialist.

“Warren (Gatland) will give Stuart all the time he needs to make sure he’s right,” said Farrell, of Hogg’s injury situation.