Iain Henderson hoping to avenge Leinster and secure silverware
Iain Henderson and Rob Herring were on the bench the last time Ulster reached a final seven years ago.
The Irish international forward duo were replacements that day at the RDS as Leinster beat Ulster 24-18 in the Pro14 final.
Henderson and Herring both start in tonight’s final at the Aviva Stadium with Leinster once again standing in Ulster’s way to silverware.
Six times since 2011 Leinster have ended Ulster’s quest for a trophy in either domestic or European rugby, and Henderson, who has recovered from a hip injury, believes it’s time Ulster beat their old foes and filled the Kingspan trophy cabinet for the first time in 16 years.
“Silverware with Ulster is something that has obviously been elusive in everybody’s career here,” said the skipper.
“It’s something that would be massive, a distant memory for anyone in the current playing squad.
“Rob Lyttle chatted about it, he’s looking forward to ending the wait and I think we all are actually.
“Frustrating for a lot of people that it hasn’t happened because we know the direction we are going.
“Hopefully tomorrow night, we can take another step further in the direction that we’re going and continue I suppose.”
Losing in the RDS to Leinster seven years ago still haunts Henderson especially as Ulster had earned the right to host the final but due to the redevelopment of Ravenhill the game was moved to Dublin.
“Towards the end of that season I remember thinking ‘we finished top of the table, why don’t we win the league now?’ questioned Henderson.
“That was probably my most frustrating memory.
“Going down to the game down there was a massive frustration, that we had essentially given up our home advantage to the opposition.
“Then we had a few opportunities in that game when we could have gone ahead, it was a very difficult game.
“Leinster were well on their way to being the powerhouse that they are.
“It’s been a frustration of ours that we haven’t played another final against them since.
“It’s been a surprise and a disappointment to everyone that we have proceeded to a final.”
Ulster got to within three points of Leinster in last season’s European Cup final at the Aviva Stadium and while it was another case of what might have been for the Belfast club Henderson knows they will need to perform better tonight.
He said: “We felt were performed well, close to the best we performed that season and it wasn’t good enough on the day.
“We had a few mishaps that day, it still stays with a lot of the players, they enjoyed it but it was a massive upset in some of their early careers and some of us well into our careers.
“It’s something we’re going to use to encourage ourselves and yet take learnings from. There’s no shying away from the fact Leinster are right up there at the top of their game, our league and Europe.
“That’s where we want to be going and aiming to get to, that’s where they’re setting the bar and where we’re trying to get to.”
“We’re going to continue to try and fight to get to where we want to get to.”
Henderson will be up against his Irish team mate James Ryan in the second row, the Leinster lock is also playing his first game after the resumption.
“I’ve played against James before, I’ve probably played with him more than I have against him so I know what he brings to a side, the work rate and ability that he has, something I suppose, it can work for you and against you,” he said.
“Anytime you play an inter provincial game, you’re playing against people we know or want to play, or get psyched up for games.”