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Knee injury to keep Ulster captain Henderson out until Six Nations

The second row’s injury is major blow for Ulster in their Champions Cup pool campaign.

Henderson receives attention after sustaining injury on Ireland duty.
Henderson receives attention after sustaining injury on Ireland duty.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ULSTER LOCK IAIN Henderson has emerged as a doubt for the Six Nations after his provincial head coach confirmed he will not return before the end of January at the earliest.

Speaking at today’s press conference ahead of their Champions Cup clash at Gloucester at the weekend, Ulster chief Dan McFarland admitted they are preparing for the next six games without their captain.

Henderson suffered a knee injury on Ireland duty against Scotland in the third-fourth play-off of the Autumn Nations Cup two weeks ago and has since seen a specialist on the issue.

And McFarland has now cast doubt over whether the lock will be available for the Six Nations after revealing he likely won’t play again for his province prior to the start of next season’s tournament in February.

“I think a loose projection would be he’s going to probably be out for the next block of games or this block of games,” confirmed the Englishman.

Henderson returned for the Autumn Nations Cup after being suspended for the conclusion of the Six Nations in October, featuring off the bench away to England and starting against both Georgia and Scotland.

He had appeared to have won back his starting jersey alongside James Ryan, however his comeback lasted only a short time as he was replaced in the 39th minute of the 31-16 win over the Scots after injuring his knee.

McFarland did not close the door on any international participation in the spring for Henderson, and Andy Farrell will be hoping that the 28-year-old can recover in time to play a key role in the Championship as he aims to promote healthy competition within his squad.

In the short-term, Henderson will miss Ulster’s must-win Champions Cup fixtures against Gloucester and their return trip to Toulouse – who they were beaten 29-22 by in their opening game at Kingspan Stadium last Friday – as well as their three interprovincials in the Guinness PRO14.

The province know that one more loss in Europe would torpedo any slim hopes they currently hold of reaching the last-eight for a third consecutive season, meaning their trip to Kingsholm on Saturday must yield a minimum return of four points.

“It’s not that (the defeat) simplifies (the situation) because it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d won against Toulouse at home. If you win at home, you obviously don’t want to go away and lose at Gloucester,” insisted McFarland.

“If you win all four games then you have a chance at getting a home quarter-final. We would have been in the same position going to Gloucester in that we really want to win. The same thing applies now, we really want to win.

“This is a great competition, and for us every game is really valuable in terms of experience for our players, but also in terms of the glory of being able to win a Champions Cup game.

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“The pain of losing to Toulouse is difficult to deal with, but we took part in what was a really great match on a weekend where some were quite lopsided.

“The mood is pretty good when you can come in and you can say you played pretty well. There are plenty of things to work on and we actually enjoy doing that.

“Will we be disappointed with the result? Obviously. But we’ve got to turn around and it’s Gloucester next.”

 

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