Ulster skipper Iain Henderson wary of Tigers test

Ulster skipper Iain Henderson is more than familiar with the credentials of Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick going into Friday night’s European Challenge Cup semi-final.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 1:00 pm

Borthwick captained Saracens to two European Cup quarter-final wins over Ulster in the middle part of the last decade.

And the former England lock will again be trying to plot Ulster’s downfall at Welford Road (8pm) as the sides face off for a place in the final.

Borthwick also coached Henderson on the 2017 British and Irish tour to New Zealand and the Ulster captain believes the 53-times capped second row’s influence is starting to improve the Tigers.

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Iain Henderson during an Ulster Rugby Captain's Run, held at Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast, ahead of their European Challenge Cup semi-final clash again Leicester on Friday night. Photo by John Dickson/Dicksondigital

“He’s trying to bring Leicester back to a more detailed, clinical version of what they used to be,” said Henderson.

“There used to be a lot of grunt and he’s trying to add a bit more brains to that.

“I know how [thorough] he is with his research into other teams and the amount he will analyse their line-outs, the way they play, kick-offs, everything.

“He doesn’t leave any stone unturned, he was obviously a brilliant player at Saracens, as committed as he was, and I think he wants to bring that out in the guy’s he’s coaching,” added Henderson.

“No doubt he’ll have them fired up, they’ll be looking at going at this all guns blazing, so I’d expect to be seeing a relatively intentful forward pack and the backs will be looking to exploit space.”

Leicester have named their first-choice front row of Ellis Genge, Tom Youngs and Dan Cole and Henderson is expecting the Tigers to pose threats all over the pitch.

“We’ve looked a lot - not my area of expertise - at the kicking game, to then maul penalties,” he said.

“So we know we have to be big on our set-piece, big on kick chase, ensuring we resource our rucks after good kicks from them.

“Obviously they have great kick threats, big ball carriers in the back row.”

Ulster are chasing a place in a European decider for the first time since 2012 and Henderson feels reaching another final would be another step in the evolution of the squad.

“Dan (McFarland) will talk about consistently competing, that is something the more we do the more closer we get there, the better the guys are handling that environment.

“Ultimately it is enjoyable when you are there, the more the guys will strive to get there even more.”

Jordi Murphy comes into the back row, with Stuart McCloskey, Marty Moore and Alan O’Connor all restored to Ulster’s starting line-up.

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