Politically Aware

Wedding ahead for Iain Henderson after his first Lions tour challenge

The 25-year-old Ireland and Ulster lock has important times ahead of him.

Murray Kinsella reports from Dunedin

IAIN HENDERSON IS looking forward to a hectic few days when he gets home from this Lions tour.

He and fiancée Suzanne Flanagan, who met at Belfast Royal Academy at the age of 17, are tying the knot just two days after Henderson’s arrival back in Ireland.

“I think the Ulster boys are getting back in to Belfast at about 8pm on the 12th of July and I’m getting married at noon on the 14th of July. I somehow managed to cut that as fine as possible,” says Henderson.

Iain Henderson Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

While he has his hands full with trying to impress Warren Gatland in New Zealand, plans for the wedding are ploughing ahead at full steam back home.

“As far as I’m aware all the wedding planning is going very smoothly. Outside of that, I’m glad to be sleeping during the day at home so I don’t have to worry about any of that.

“It will definitely be tight enough getting back home jet-lagged and then going on honeymoon over to Singapore. So that week between the 12th and 16th will definitely be sleepless. I don’t know whether I’ll be tired or not. I’ll have to just wait and see how that comes, and hopefully, it will all work out fine!”

It’s an exciting time in the 25-year-old’s life, no doubt, with this first Lions tour throwing new challenges at him on and off the pitch, as he bonds with entirely new team-mates.

He has enjoyed having the familiarity of Jared Payne and Rory Best within the squad, but two stints rooming with England lock Maro Itoje have been enjoyable too.

The Saracens man is studying Politics at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and said earlier in this tour that Henderson has been teaching him about Northern Irish politics.

The Irishman says that it’s not a conversation he has had with a team-mate before.

“I’ve never had it with another rugby player,” says Henderson. “He was talking about politics and I was talking about Northern Irish politics, and our current inability to form a Government.

Iain Henderson Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“Then in the last week or so we have discovered that the Conservatives and the DUP will be forming together to get rid of this hung Parliament, so to speak.”

“I was just explaining to him again this week some of the… I’m trying to choose my words very carefully… some brief summation of Northern Ireland in terms of Stormont and the politics that goes on in it.”

Away from those enjoyable chats, Henderson is keen to make a better impression on the pitch today against the Highlanders [KO 8.35am Irish time, Sky Sports].

His first outing against the Provincial Barbarians didn’t quite work out the way he would have hope on what was a difficult day collectively for the Lions.

“That game seems like weeks and weeks ago now. I think all the boys who are getting another crack at it will be looking forward to getting onto the pitch and getting a bit more game time.

“I think everyone’s a little more confident in the systems and structures now, confident with each other, confident in other people’s company, playing with people, training with them a bit more.

“That’s definitely been evident to me in training, things have been gelling better and that’s probably evident in the game just past.

“Everyone’s working slightly better together as a whole unit and so all these wee bits and pieces that are getting better in training are hopefully going to keep on building towards performances for us.”

British and Irish Lions Iain Henderson  during the Captains Run Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

And with George Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones having impressed against the Crusaders in the second row on Saturday, Henderson and the other involved against the Highlanders know that time is running out.

”We wanted to start and just build in performances. It was brilliant not conceding any tries [against the Crusaders].

“Ideally, we would have liked to have finished off a few more opportunities but it was fantastic for the boys out there; a real solid defensive line and a few good opportunities in attack and we’ll look to take them between now and the end of the series and keep on building on that attacking performance.”

“The ante is going to build into the Tests, not only are we getting closer to those big Test games but people are wanting to perform in these big games to put their hands up for spots.

“Not only in the games but in training as well, everything’s been upped and a massive emphasis has been put on effort.”


15. Richard Buckman
14. Waisake Naholo
13. Malakai Fekitoa
12. Teihorangi Walden
11. Tevita Li
10. Lima Sopoaga
9. Kane Hammington

1. Dan Lienert-Brown
2. Liam Coltman
3. Siate Tokolahi
4. Alex Ainley
5. Jackson Hemopo
6. Gareth Evans
7. Dillon Hunt
8. Luke Whitelock (captain)


16. Greg Pleasants-Tate
17. Aki Seiuli
18. Siosuia Halanukonuka
19. Josh Dickson
20. Jimmy Lentjes
21. Josh Renton
22. Marty Banks
23. Patrick Osborne


15. Jared Payne
14. Jack Nowell
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Tommy Seymour
10. Dan Biggar
9. Rhys Webb

1. Joe Marler
2. Rory Best
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Courtney Lawes
5. Iain Henderson
6. James Haskell
7. Sam Warburton (captain)
8. CJ Stander


16. Ken Owens
17. Jack McGrath
18. Dan Cole
19. Alun Wyn Jones
20. Justin Tipuric
21. Greig Laidlaw
22. Owen Farrell
23. Elliot Daly

Referee: Angus Gardner [ARU].

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