Belfast Telegraph

Henry clings to Heineken Cup dream but time is running out

By Niall Crozier

Chris Henry’s chances of being fit for the Heineken Cup final are decreasing with each passing day.

The Ulster flanker suffered ankle ligament damage early on in the RaboDirect PRO12 inter-pro clash with Leinster on April 20 — as things have since worked out a dress rehearsal for May 19 when the rivals will square up at Twickenham to decide which of them emerge with the title of European champions.

“There’s no way Chris will be fit this weekend; he’s improving greatly but there is still a little bit to go,” was coach Brian McLaughlin’s assessment of Henry’s state of health at this stage.

A week ago McLaughlin sounded confident when he said he was “hopeful” that Henry would make it for last Saturday’s semi-final meeting with Edinburgh. That deadline came and went, with Henry missing it.

The fact that he still is not ready a this stage is a real concern, for with Henry last having played on April 20, to include him on May 19 would mean risking a player who had been out through injury for four weeks, along with suspended John Afoa.

The euphoria of the weekend has settled at this stage, allowing the preliminary stages of the phoney war to get under way.

David Humphreys kicked things off at the weekend by painting Leinster as “hot favourites” for the final, but Eoin Reddan hit back with a salvo that had Ulster at the top of the tree, claiming that the northern province are somehow underestimated by the media.

Reddan reckons that Ulster have proven themselves a “great side” this season.

“Obviously it will be very tough,” the Ireland scrum-half said at the launch of the annual Bloomsday Messenger Bike Rally in aid of Irish Youth Foundation.

“Ulster have proven themselves over and over again this year, and probably more so to us than the media.

“The media say ‘oh, they're up, they're down; will they lose to Edinburgh?’ We always knew they would win that semi-final and we have massive respect for them. They have achieved a huge amount this year already. Fair play to them for that.

“They're a great side, they've proven that this year. They came very close to beating Clermont on their own patch.”

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Munster have announced the appointment of New Zealander Rob Penney as their new head coach.

The 48-year-old will move to Limerick from Canterbury, where he has been head coach since 2006, and replace Tony McGahan, who is taking up a coaching co-ordinator's role with the Australian Rugby Union.

Penney will take charge of the New Zealand Under-20 squad for this summer's World Cup in South Africa, before starting his Munster duties during July.

Penney guided Canterbury to their fourth straight national provincial title last season, and he has previously served as Canterbury Crusaders assistant coach during a successful Super 12 campaign.

“We conducted a thorough search to find a replacement for Tony McGahan and were delighted with the calibre of the candidates,” Munster chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald said.

“Rob Penney's record speaks for itself, and we look forward to welcoming him to Munster.”

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