Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Chris Henry ready for Ulster Rugby's final sprint to the line

Chris Henry can't wait to play in a home Heineken Cup quarter-final on Saturday
Chris Henry can't wait to play in a home Heineken Cup quarter-final on Saturday

He wasn't originally meant to be doing the 'dreaded' media session for a second week running, but Chris Henry 's late call-up to cover for Jared Payne doesn't appear to be too much of a hardship.

These days, the 29-year-old flanker seems even more upbeat than usual, which is hardly surprising since he has recently pocketed a Six Nations medal and played with such authority throughout the championship.

Now, though, the only show in town is Ulster as they prepare for a fourth consecutive season in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Indeed, Henry is eager to air his views on Saturday's clash with Saracens and just what it means to have brought a last eight tie back to Ravenhill for the first time since 1998.

"This is it now, this is our final." he explains.

"It's going to be the measure of how successful this year will be.

"We said at the start of the year we wanted to get a home quarter-final and now we've got it.

"Now we've the chance to beat one of the top sides to book our place in the semi-final, so you couldn't have asked for more," Henry adds.

And with the semi-final doubtless heading towards a 'home tie' at Lansdowne Road should Ulster do the business on Saturday, and avenge last season's disappointing last eight exit to Saracens at Twickenham, there is much on offer at what will be a seismic clash at a more than pumped-up Ravenhill.

With, at last,18,000 supporters able to pour through the turnstiles at the finally revamped stadium it will be an emotionally-charged night and Henry feels that all this anticipation of Ulster's first European quarter-final home tie for 15 seasons – the year they famously went on to win the cup – is not something the players should try to shut out in the build-up to Saturday.

"To be honest I don't want to play the emotion down," Henry states.

"I think it gets the best out of us, look at some of our big games over the last couple of years and it's the European Cup games that get the best out of us.

"At the start of a European Cup week you need to feel the buzz and excitement and it's no different this week.

"I wouldn't try to play any of it down and as a player you should be feeling the butterflies and the pressure.

"Pressure brings the best out of players and big players stand up in big games," he says while pointing out that Ulster were partly undone at Twickenham last year by a tricky injury profile which saw a number of players rushed back – including himself – with the net result being that they never really showed much of their potential.

You sense there is a nagging need to put on a proper showing this time around.

And, added to an already potent motivational mix, is the fact that skipper Johann Muller, John Afoa and Tom Court are all moving on at the end of this season

"John, Tom and Johann are big players in our pack and of course for us to go and win something with them leaving would be very special.

"It's not the main focus," he adds, "but I would love to help them achieve something but more so myself, I would desperately want to win something too.

"The last two months has shown me what can be achieved and now I want to go forward and win this quarter-final.

"And I've no doubt we're going to rise to the occasion this weekend."

This time they just have to make amends.

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