GUINNESS PRO12: Chris Henry wants Ulster to push on and take silverware

Ulster's Chris Henry
Ulster's Chris Henry

Chris Henry was part of the Ireland A team that won the Churchill Cup in 2009, he won the Six Nations in 2014 and only injury last season denied him a second winners medal by now after a few near misses the abrasive back row wants to get his hands on some silverware with Ulster.

Ulster haven’t lifted a trophy since David Humphreys dramatic drop goal at the Ospreys clinched the league title in 2006.

“I think we have a great chance this season,” said Henry.

“Obviously we need a bit of luck but we’re at the stage of the season where the last few games we have been winning but haven’t been playing tremendously well which in the past when we have achieved things like reaching finals and semi finals that’s what’s happened,” said Henry.

“I think we’re going through a stage like that. I think we are creating a lot but not finishing them at crucial times if we can fix that we have a squad and management that can win silverware.”

“The biggest thing for me is the age of our team now. We have a nice balance of younger lads coming through but if you look at the spine of the team we have guys who are real good ages in key positions.

“Paddy Jackson is going to be crucial for us finishing the season, we have real squad depth which maybe we didn’t have in other seasons.

“As always if you have a bit of luck with injury and guys coming back from injuries you can really drive this on and finish the season and I see no reason why if we keep the process the same and keep focusing week to week hopefully we’ll put ourselves in a position - but the bottom line is we need a home semi final.

“We have been beaten by away semi finals and quarter finals and we know how important it is, if we get a home semi final then who knows what can happen.”

It was set up for a fairy tale ending last season with Kingspan Stadium hosting the final but Glasgow ruined the script at Scotstoun.

Henry said: “There was pressure but looking back at all the seasons we had I think it is a game I’ll always look back on with real regret because I do think it was a game we should have won.”

In 2013 Ulster basically led the PRO12 from start to finish in the regular season and had top seeding for the semi final, the Scarlets were dispatched at Ravenhill in the last four but with the ground being redeveloped Ulster forfeited the right to host the final with it being moved to the RDS and Leinster made home advantage count with a six point victory over Mark Anscombe’s side.

“Having to play that final away was gutting so those are the two big moments where I look back and go what if,” said Henry.

“If we win it this year those times will be forgotten very quickly. We’re all desperate to win something. Maybe in those past seasons where we had those run of wins and led the league for so long it shows it really doesn’t matter it’s about plugging through the season getting points and then building up form and that is hopefully where we are sitting now.”

Ulster have gone from fifth to first by taking 22 points in their last six games

“It’s amazing how quickly a few wins or a few loses can push you up or down.

“This week it’s first v fourth and the Scarlets are a team that probably haven’t been clicking ridiculously well either so it’s going to be interesting this weekend.

“We have a lot of belief in our squad and if we can click we’re creating the opportunities but not finishing them, we need to find form but if you asked me if we play poorly and you win would you take it - of course you would! All we can do is keep working hard and preparing the best we can.

“Eventually it will click, as a forward pack if we can get the backline good ball they have shown they can score against the best in the world and it’s fantastic to play with such talented players,” added Henry.

Only one point separates the top four teams in the league and with nobody having the distraction of Europe it promises to be an exciting run in.

Henry said: “I think it shows this league is competitive. On the day anybody can beat anybody I think being out of Europe doesn’t feature into it.

“It means you have to be on the money every week and it’s ridiculously competitive.

“We’ve been lucky to have had a run of home games, the atmosphere when we get going is amazing so we want to use that this weekend, Henry added.

Ulster have not lost to a non Irish team at home in the league since Glasgow won in Belfast back in September 2013.

“You want the nerves and fear of losing at home, if we get any advantage from the home crowd we have to use it.

“We want Kingspan to be a fortress and if it gets a couple of extra percentage out of a player then you’ll use that,” said Henry.

The Scarlets won the first meeting of the season 22-12 but Henry is hoping Ulster’s forward power can stop them doing the double.

“They are kind of like ourselves they like to throw the ball about but have a few key forwards who are good ball carries,” he said.

“Ot will be pretty evenly matched I think. As a forward group we have been talking about our set piece, our lineout attack and scrum. Our percentages look good but I think we have gone off the boil a bit in our maul defence. As a pack we’re probably missing the likes of Rory (Best), Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy.

“We want to push on I think it’s a really good pack unit but have we really pushed on and dominated I don’t think we have.

Henry missed a month of the season before getting the last quarter against Glasgow.

“I got 20 minutes it’s great to be back and it was ridiculously frustrating to be out especially the nature of this injury.

“I’m desperate just to get some game time. I feel I have a lot to offer I just need to throw myself in there as quickly as possible.”

With Sean O’Brien being ruled out of the Six Nations Henry is being touted to return to the Ireland squad but he has dismissed that talk.

“It’s lovely that people say that but as far as I’m concerned I have got to play rugby,.

“I’d like to think Joe (Schmidt) might be thinking of me and with a run of games I could be back in the mix but at the moment the boys there have done a good job so it is not as don’t think it’s as clear cut as some may think.

“If I put in a good showing who knows but for me it’s not about Ireland it’s about Ulster and contributing and trying to get us into a good place and if something comes of that great,” added Henry.