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Fears Iain Henderson could miss Ulster Champions Cup games

The Ireland lock is a doubt for matches against Clermont and Northampton Saints.

Ulster's Iain Henderson (file pic).
Ulster's Iain Henderson (file pic).
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ULSTER HEAD COACH Dan McFarland has confirmed that Iain Henderson could miss their Heineken Champions Cup pool games against Clermont and Northampton Saints with the hamstring injury sustained on international duty.

The Ireland lock withdrew from Sunday’s win over Argentina after tweaking the muscle before the game and provincial coach McFarland has revealed Henderson will be sidelined for “a few weeks”.

The Ulster skipper is an influential leader, as well as a cornerstone of their pack, and being without him for the trip to the Stade Marcel-Michelin and the visit of the Saints the following week would be a considerable blow to their European prospects.

That being said, Henderson is a notoriously fast recoverer from what appear to be long-term ailments — while he has also recovered from a hamstring injury before — so the medical team at Kingspan Stadium will surely hold out hope he could yet see some European involvement.

In the shorter term, the second row will definitely miss the province’s trip to the RDS Arena on Saturday to face Leinster as Ulster return to United Rugby Championship action, but McFarland was bullish on the possibility of some of their other internationals featuring.

Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole and Nick Timoney all featured in the victory against Los Pumas last week, so will likely be unavailable, but hooker Rob Herring made just one sub appearance against the All Blacks, while centres James Hume and Stuart McCloskey went unused by Andy Farrell.

“There’s nobody who is not allowed to play but they’re obviously part of the player management programme. It’s a question of whether it best suits to play them this week,” explained the head coach.

“Some guys played at the weekend, some guys need a break, it’s all based on an individual basis and we’ll make decisions based on a combination of what’s best for us and what’s best for us as individuals.”

Five weeks has been a long time for Ulster to stew over their most recent result, a five-try 36-11 thrashing by Connacht at the Aviva Stadium prior to the international break, and there’s a pulsating hunger to right some wrongs after their below-par display.

A fired-up McFarland made headlines in the aftermath of the Dublin drubbing by claiming his side routinely fail to perform when they come into a game as favourites — something he certainly can’t say this week — but heading into their second consecutive game in the Irish capital he rowed back on some of those comments.


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“There’s an acceptance that it wasn’t good enough. Maybe in the aftermath, I drew too many generalisations. I’m quite an emotional guy and there’s definitely a core of what I was thinking that’s right,” said the former Connacht prop.

“Do I think it’s as general as that? I don’t. When I went back and watched the game we did do a chunk of things that were good. We started the game extremely well. A few things went against us that we got wrong.

“They gained a huge amount of momentum through physicality and we didn’t get to that level. When a team plays as well and as physically as that, it’s difficult. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have been better. We should have been.

“We came in straight away the week after and we had a tough few days of training and reviewing. We took it on the chin and that’s what’s happened. We’re not the only team in the last few months who have lost games they felt they could have won.

“That’s the beauty of sport. You have to rise from defeats and turn it around and we’ve a huge opportunity this weekend to put something on the pitch that is closer to the kind of performance that we aspire to.”

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