PRO14 RUGBY: Ulster to welcome Iain Henderson back for Dragons fixture

Iain Henderson
Iain Henderson
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Iain Henderson will make his season debut for Ulster on Friday night against Dragons.

The towering forward, along with Rory Best and Jared Payne had been on player welfare protocols having been on the British & Irish Lions summer tour to New Zealand.

While Best was also due to return this week, he was ruled out for between four to six weeks after tearing a hamstring in training last week.

Payne is expected to return to playing next week when Ulster travel to play Zebre in the PRO14.

Although likely to be named on the bench for the visit of the Welsh side to Kingspan Stadium, Henderson will not spend the full match warming it.

It will be interesting to see if - provided injuries during the match do not dictate - if he comes on in the second or back row.

Given that key ball carriers Best, Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee are missing from the side, Henderson will be expected to take the lead in that respect.

Coetzee, who has a knee issue, could make a return next week, while fellow South African Deysel continues to recover from what Ulster described as ‘minor trauma to an eye.’

Director of rugby, Les Kiss, was asked to expand further on that and said the backrow forward had received a “poke in the eye.”

“It is just managing the bruising on it and you do not want another knock on it and having to manage if further.

“We will get some more clarity on it this week and see where we are, but we are hopeful everything is good there.”

Louis Ludik may not be available for selection this week as he recovers from head and knee knocks, but Kiss remained hopeful New Zealander Charles Piutau would be involved.

“Charles trained well so far this week and should be fit to play,” he said.

Ulster had been expected to make some rotation for the visit of the Dragons.

The Welsh side picked up their first win of the PRO14 campaign last weekend when they defeated Connacht.