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Chris Henry maintains Ulster Rugby can achieve a slice of history

By Michael Sadlier

Published 19/05/2015

Ulster Rugby Captain's Run, Kingspan Stadium, Belfast 2/10/2014
Chris Henry
Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard
Ulster Rugby Captain's Run, Kingspan Stadium, Belfast 2/10/2014 Chris Henry Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard

It's all ramping up now towards the second trip to Glasgow in just under a week but with everything on the line for this Friday night's PRO12 semi-final meeting (kick-off 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports and BBC NI).

And Ulster are going to give it their all to be the ones who will then be running out to what will be a hugely expectant Kingspan Stadium final the following week.

Flanker Chris Henry is determined to make it happen and maintains that a close to full strength Ulster can manage to storm Glasgow's Scotstoun fortress, where the Scottish side have not lost a PRO12 game since the back end of 2013.

"We have cavalry coming," said the 30-year-old regarding the intended selection for Friday's titanic clash which should see a raft of frontline players back in the starting side after coach Neil Doak made 12 changes ahead of last weekend's 32-10 defeat in Glasgow in the final round of regulation games.

"We've another rattle at them and another chance," continued the Ireland international, who only returned to playing in March after undergoing heart surgery following a career-threatening health scare last autumn.

"I can't wait. We're coming back to do something special," he added after leading the side in last weekend's defeat which pitched the teams together again for the play-offs after Ulster finished in fourth and Glasgow topped the table.

Ulster will, of course, have to alter the trend of recent times which has seen no side hosting a PRO12 semi-final fail to progress in the last five years, but Henry, naturally, feels that this can be done.

"We know going away will be tough, but going away anywhere is going to be tough," he said. "We're coming to play on Friday and what an opportunity because we know that the incentive is there for us for the home final."

Last Saturday's stand-in skipper also highlighted the importance to the team of getting some extra backing from the supporters and the realisation that they are just one game away from securing a home final.

"We know they don't lose much at home, but there were plenty of Ulster fans out there (last weekend) and more will be coming. A final at Kingspan puts some pressure on us," Henry admitted.

"Over the last couple of years when we went to the RDS the luck was against us," he said regarding last season's losing PRO12 semi-final to Leinster and the deep hurt of 2013's final defeat when Ulster had earned the right to host the game by finishing top of the league but were forced to go to Dublin due to the reconstruction work on the ground.

"But this year I feel we're getting a bit of luck, like with Iain Henderson getting cleared over his red card."

There is no doubt that having Henderson available has given the squad a huge boost as they plan to do a job on the Warriors as his dynamic style of play creates a platform from which both forwards and backs can work from.

Right now, though, Ulster feel they are in a good place and that destiny awaits them despite Glasgow having made five out of six semi-finals.

"There's just a belief that something is building and something is happening," Henry maintains.

"It's going to be tough but we're going to give it our all."

As for last Saturday's game, Henry reckoned that there were some positives to be taken away from the defeat which saw Doak make sweeping changes from the week before when the squad's draw with Munster saw them lose control of their own destiny in terms of making a home semi-final.

"We've learned that we can't give away silly penalties," he said of what has actually been a bit of an Achilles' heel for Ulster throughout the campaign.

"I was guilty (last Saturday) and gave two away near the end of the first half which cost at least three points and then there was error after error.

"But there were positives. Our maul worked well and our scrum and I thought Ricky Lutton was outstanding and young Sam Arnold didn't do too much wrong on his first start," Henry added.

Indeed, Ulster's only try in the game came off one such driving maul when Henry - who also had to leave the action for running repairs to a facial cut - drove over and, earlier in the opening half, Henderson also had a chance to muscle in only to, rather unusually, lose control of the ball.

"Now (for us) it's just all about regrouping," Henry added.

Yes, and doing something very special to make that final.

Ulster have appointed ex-England international second row Alex Codling as the new forwards coach at the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy.

Codling was previously head coach at Rosslyn Park and also had a spell leading Rotherham Titans.

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