Ulster captain Iain Henderson is backing teenage scrum-half Nathan Doak to excel on the European stage in the same way as he has lit up the United Rugby Championship.
The Ulster, Ireland and British Lions skipper faces a race to be fit for the Champions Cup opener against Clermont on Saturday evening at the Stade Marcel-Michelin due to the hamstring injury he picked up that forced him out of the autumn international against Argentina.
Doak made his Ulster debut in the provincial derby will over Munster in January, but it has been at the start of this season where the 19-year-old has excelled.
He came off the bench in the URC opener against Glasgow as a replacement for John Cooney, with Doak scoring a try and kicking three conversions in Ulster’s bonus point win.
He started the next game against Zebre and dotted down twice against Benetton.
“‘Doaky’ came in two summers ago as a 17-year-old and did not look a bit out of place, he was bossing backlines, throwing the ball around and pushing forwards around as a 17-year-old,” said Henderson.
“And when you see that, he was around the place quite a bit when he was younger and that is how we would have known him and from being around (his father Neil) ‘Doaky’, who coached a lot of us.
“I’m excited about him getting his first European cap and seeing what he can do on that stage, and I daresay that we will see a lot more of him in the future on the club stage and probably the international stage too.”
Henderson is disappointed to pick up his latest injury as Europe beckons.
“My injuries always seem to come at the most bizarre times in the most bizarre places unfortunately but, again, it’s frustrating that it happened during the warm-up.
“All week it had been fine, and then in the last five seconds of the warm-up, some sniper decided to get me in the back of the leg.
“I’ve been doing a bit of running and it’s been feeling good. So, again, I’m just trying to follow the right protocols... hopefully, it’s going to be looking good.”