Belfast Telegraph

Ulster haven't come away for a holiday, says fired-up Henry

 

By Adam McKendry

When you go away on tour, it helps to have locals as guides.

"All the South African players, their first duty of the week was to give a presentation on South Africa and how amazing it is!" flanker Chris Henry laughs.

"Even on the safari you had Schalk (Van der Merwe) and Wiehahn (Herbst) sitting in the back chatting away about different animals!"

It sounds like a relaxing enough trip so far for Ulster, having arrived in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday afternoon. However, as Henry explains, that couldn't be further from the truth.

There's hurt within the squad after back-to-back defeats to La Rochelle and Leinster, and Henry is determined to get back to winning ways against a Southern Kings side yet to taste victory this season.

"Losing at home is tough, I just felt the way we lost it was the hardest thing about it," Henry states. "A lot of it was our own undoing and that's really hard to take. It wasn't to do with our attitude or a lack of effort, but the execution of our game, which I thought over the last few weeks had been steadily improving, took a step back.

"So now it's about using this week to get back to what we're about."

With both Rory Best and Iain Henderson absent due to Ireland call-ups, it falls upon Henry to take up the mantle of captain.

One of the leaders within the squad, the 33-year-old will lead the side out for Ulster's first ever game in South Africa, something he's relishing.

"I love it," he grins. "It's history. To be a touring team with Ulster, it doesn't happen very often at all.

"I was chatting to Tommy (Bowe) and his first year with Ulster he toured but it wasn't in a proper competition. So it's a special occasion."

And, despite the hosts' unenviable record of no wins and no points in the Guinness PRO14 so far this season, the Lisburn man isn't expecting a straightforward win at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium.

"The problem is when you play a team that have lost seven games they're going to be desperate, and it's a scary thing when a team is desperate and at home when they have this new stadium and the crowd behind them," Henry admits. "If we want to be at the top of the table at the end of the season and be fighting it out in the semi-finals and final then we just have to win these games.

"We're a wise enough team to realise that, and this week we'll get a lot of enjoyment out of it and we know how lucky we are to be here, but ultimately we're here to do a job and get the win."

• Flanker Callum Gibbins will captain Glasgow Warriors as Leinster visit in the PRO14 having won at Scotstoun in the Champions Cup last month.

Gibbins will lead a squad that features 11 players who have returned from international training.

Leinster hand a debut at inside centre to Conor O'Brien, and fellow Leinster Academy wing Josh Murphy could also make his first appearance from the bench.

The 21-year-old O'Brien is promoted by head coach Lee Cullen after impressing with Leinster's 'A' team, while Jordan Armour comes into the side at full-back.

Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent make up a completely new front row from the side that defeated Ulster 25-10.

Belfast Telegraph

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