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Irish can wait for focused Chris Henry as Ulster come first

By Jonathan Bradley

A shoulder injury has kept Chris Henry from joining up with his Ireland team-mates ahead of the Six Nations but the Ulster flanker will still feel a sense of relief when the narrative finally shifts from last year's World Cup.

Next Sunday's opener against Wales will be the first game for Joe Schmidt's men since the quarter-final exit to Argentina back in October with Henry keen to finally close the book on the disappointing tournament.

"It's been hard with the provinces not getting through (in the Champions Cup) and people are talking about a hangover," said Henry. "Hopefully this Welsh game will move it forward.

"I don't know how long a hangover lasts but surely at this stage of the season you can't be talking about that.

"I think certain players have been rested in games and people are fresher. The time has passed now where people have to let that go. We can't wait to kick on.

"We had a one-day camp (earlier in January) and it was really positive. There were new faces and old faces there and it was just really to regroup, have a bit of a review of the World Cup and about moving forward as quickly as possible."

Traditionally, even years are considered Ireland's tougher schedule - involving trips to face England at Twickenham and France in Paris - but, as Henry points out, it proved no obstacle two years ago.

"We have done it before," said the man who started all five games of the championship-winning campaign of 2014 before missing last year's title defence after a heart problem which threatened his career.

"It is tough but you need a bit of luck with the way the ball bounces sometimes and regards to injuries.

"Ultimately we got to the World Cup quarter-final and we played some great rugby.

"We think we've a good team with world class players and there is still hopefully more to come."

While Henry will not feature for at least the first two games of the championship thanks to the shoulder problem originally sustained in December, he was name-checked by Schmidt as a player he expects to come back and feature later on.

The 31-year-old flanker is focused on getting back for Ulster before he concerns himself with adding to his 24 caps, however.

"I knew leading up to the announcement of the squad that I wasn't going to make it through injury and I wasn't too happy with my form in the last few games," he added.

"For me it would be great to get back into that squad but ultimately it's about getting back for Ulster and playing well, getting back into the white jersey because Sean Reidy has been playing really well.

"For me the focus now is to get back as quickly as possible, in the best shape possible and hopefully getting stuck in there.

"Hopefully I'll have enough time to contribute. We'll probably know a bit more by Monday but I'm guessing it's two weeks.

"I'm just taking it day by day. I think I came back a bit too early in the last two games. I played Munster and Oyonnax, and I wasn't probably there yet so this time I'm making sure I'm 100 per cent.

"Hopefully I can get out there and contribute.

"Timing is always frustrating but it could be worse. It's not long-term."

Belfast Telegraph


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