Better news for Ireland as Chris Henry and Iain Henderson near return

The Ulster duo are in contention for playing roles against Munster, who have lost Sean Dougall and James Downey to injury.

Chris Henry and Iain Henderson should figure against Munster on Friday.
Chris Henry and Iain Henderson should figure against Munster on Friday.
Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

JOE SCHMIDT MAY be lamenting the festive interprovincial clashes at present but he has received a boost from Ravenhill this afternoon.

Ulster are set to name Chris Henry, Luke Marshall and Iain Henderson in their squad to face Munster in the Pro12 on Friday. Henry and Henderson trained fully today while injury fears for Marshall do not seem as bad as television pictures suggested on Saturday.

Marshall limped from the RDS pitch after 57 minutes of his side’s 19-6 defeat to Leinster. It initially looked as if the inside centre had damaged his knee but the prognosis was a heavy, dead leg. He trained lightly today but should resume a full schedule on Tuesday.

The imminent return to action for Henry is welcome news for his province and national team. The flanker tore his hamstring in Ireland’s Test win over Samoa in November. He will be eager to get some game time in before the final Heineken Cup pool fixtures in January. Henry is the most likely candidate to start at openside for Ireland in the Six Nations following news that Sean O’Brien requires surgery on his injured shoulder.

A hamstring strain had ruled Henderson out of the November Series and his recovery took longer than expected. The versatile forward can play lock and back-row, giving Schmidt the option to start him at blindside and shift Peter O’Mahony to openside.

Ulster were full of good news today as they announced that Nick Williams should also play some part against Munster on Friday, as should captain Johann Muller. Given the fact that Mark Anscombe’s men were dominated at the breakdown by Leinster at the weekend, the quartet may all be pitched into interpro battle from the start.

Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave and Rob Herring have all recovered from ‘soft tissue injuries’ and should be available foe selection but Paddy Wallace is out for three weeks after suffering a muscle tear in his leg.

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imageSean Dougall is helped from the field during Munster’s win over Connacht. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster have confirmed that James Downey [groin] and Sean Dougall [ankle sprain] will play not part in this weekend’s league clash. Neither prop James Cronin nor winger Keith Earls trained at U.L today and will have their fitness monitored later in the week. The duo are fitness doubts but Niall Scannell [elbow] and Johne Murphy [calf] should be fit for selection.

Duncan Casey, Dave O’Callaghan and Tommy O’Donnell all returned to full training after following return to play protocols after the recent win over Scarlets while BJ Botha (knee) also trained.

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Shoulder surgery likely to rule Sean O’Brien out of Six Nations

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Patrick McCarry

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