PRO12 RUGBY: Ulster’s Iain Henderson wants top two finish

Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss taking Thursday's Captain Run
Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss taking Thursday's Captain Run

Ulster will not be content with just qualifying for the Guinness PRO12 play-offs they want to be pushing hard for the top two places according to Irish international Iain Henderson.

The Province are looking to make it seven consecutive PRO12 wins on Friday night when they face Cardiff Blues at Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm).

Ulster currently lie in fourth place going into the last four rounds of the regular league season.

A win tonight would see them move into third place, and they could stay there if the side currently in that spot, Ospreys, lost at home to leaders Leinster tomorrow.

They are currently seven points behind second placed Munster - but Henderson still believes a home semi final (by finishing in the top two) is still a real possibility.

“We’re definitely aiming to finish as high up the table as we can - but we’re not only trying to finish in the top four, but we also want to be pushing for the top two,” said Henderson.

“We want to try and finish the season as high as possible, we don’t want to be straggling trying to hang in there and trying to just about get through.

“We want to finish the season all guns blazing as best as we can.”

“Cardiff have had a couple of big games, the games played last weekend won’t have been easy games for any teams involved in them, physically or mentally, win or loss.

“Those will definitely be influencing factors on the remaining fixtures of the season.

“A lot of times, it might seem we’re influenced by outside factors, and sometimes that is the case, but we aim to be self driven.”

While the top two is on the horizon Ulster have to look over their shoulder as the Scarlets are only three points behind and Henderson knows there can be no slip ups against Cardiff.

“We want to be able to make sure that we secure our future in the league ourselves and not have to rely on other people’s good or bad results to influence that.

“It is definitely crunch time for us and a few other teams trying to pull themselves into a few positions in the league, whether it be playoffs or top six.

“For not only game but a lot of other games this week, there are a few things on the line.

“I think there’s a really interesting round of games coming up and we’ll definitely have our eye on a few other games, but we’ll worry about that after the result on Friday night. Until that point, we’ll only focus on ourselves.”

“Ideally, winning the four games is probably where we need to be at and the standard we need to be at to win the league.

“We have seen the last number of years, it’s not a problem of not being able to beat a team, because we have beaten every team in the league in the last few seasons.

“It’s probably mentally, our own preparation and ourselves which is the most frustrating thing about it.

“It would be easier to sit here and say such and such a team is better than us, but that’s not what it is because we’ve shown we can beat teams.”

“I think that’s where the most part of the frustration comes into this part of the season.

Henderson is looking forward to locking horns with old colleague Nick Williams - even though it will not be at the start with the former Ulster favourite named on the Blues bench.

“I think Nick has been fantastic for them and he’s been influential in a lot of their big games and a few wins as well. It will be interesting to be on the other side.”