Belfast Telegraph

Losing out now would leave a bitter taste, admits Henry

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Chris Henry says it would be a devastating blow if the province miss out on the Guinness PRO12 play-offs.

Les Kiss’ men will secure their place in the top four against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium this weekend should they match Scarlets’ result against Munster.

A late Six Nations period blip — when the side lost three of four games including a home reverse to the same Scarlets side now breathing down their necks — had left the prospect of a semi-final place in jeopardy but last weekend’s 30-6 victory over Leinster was their third in a row.

Back in the box seat, Henry says falling at the last hurdle would be a bitter pill to swallow.

“To get to this stage, we’ve been very driven and we want to go there (Ospreys) and get a result,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot but guys like Franco (van der Merwe) and Ricky Lutton who have put their body on the line every week, they’ve put in too much effort to let it slip now.

“We’ll be very motivated. We’ll keep the head down, work hard for each other and who knows what can happen this year?”

Henry stresses that the goal remains victory in next month’s Murrayfield final, not merely securing a place in the semi-finals.

“There’s a good chance we’ll meet Leinster again, but we need to keep our heads down,” he said. “We’ll use this (Saturday’s win) and build on it. We’ll look hard at ourselves because there’s plenty more to come from us.

“I don’t think any team has hit full gear yet and whatever team from the top four kicks on will take it. Hopefully we can regroup for a massive finish.”

Standing in their way are Ospreys, who had a strong win of their own last weekend — a six-try triumph over Cardiff Blues.

Swansea has proven to be a mixed bag for Ulster in the past — they have lost at the Liberty on three of their last five visits and were off the pace last year — and Henry is aware of the threat posed by a side who need to win to have any hope of securing Champions Cup rugby next year.

“They did really well (against Cardiff),” he said. “We’ll be watching them and doing the same preparation. Les has us really prepared every week. It’s about looking after ourselves early in the week and preparing the way we always do.”

Henry himself was back on form against Leinster after a season disrupted by a persistent shoulder injury and more of the same will be needed.

“I have to watch it back but overall I’m happy,” he added. “I’ve had a few niggles and at last my body is feeling really good.

“Any Leinster back-row is quality. You look at those Irish squads and there could be six Irish back-rows down there at times. For me, I’m just keeping my head down.

“You try not to focus on other people. It’s about the team, that’s how I’ve always approached it and that’s how I approached it (Saturday). Hopefully I can kick on and I’m relishing every time I get on the pitch at the moment.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph