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Deja vu for Henry as Ulster do the maths

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster may not play until tomorrow afternoon but there is plenty at stake for them in the other games playing out across Europe today.

Indeed there is an unlikely set of scenarios that could see the province needing only to ensure they don't ship four tries against Wasps in the Ricoh Arena (3.15pm) in the last of the weekend's games.

While the side's fans will be supporting the likes of Leicester, Glasgow and Northampton with a calculator in hand today, come their own game it seems most likely that Ulster will be faced with a fairly simple proposition - win and they're in the quarter-finals, do so with a bonus point and they'll be playing host in the last eight.

For Chris Henry, who made his Ulster debut nine years ago this week, it's a relatively familiar situation.

He was captain of the side that went to Castres in 2013 unsure exactly what was required, ultimately having to settle for a win with no bonus point.

The 9-8 victory was enough to top their pool, and end their hoodoo on the other side of the Channel, but failure to get the bonus point meant they went on the road first up in the knock-outs, ultimately losing to Saracens in Twickenham.

Having had to weigh up the balance between chasing a bonus point - although in truth there was never one in that game - and securing the win five years ago, Henry is sure that once again the best policy will be to ensure the minimum required return before getting any more ambitious.

"It's nice it's the last game and we'll have a good idea of what points are required.

"I have no doubt that Les will chat to a key group of players to know 'right, these are the permutations we need'.

"For us as players we know we've got to go with the same focus to win the game and turn up and perform.

"But obviously we all know our maths, we're not that silly, and if we get four tries, it's in our hands and we have the opportunity to do something really special."

The side, who arrive in Coventry this afternoon, will of course be keeping an eye on how things are shaping up over the course of today.

"It's usually a good 24 hours before we travel, so I think we'll probably get to the hotel and no doubt like a lot of the teams we like to watch the other games anyway," said Henry.

"I've no doubt we'll all be sitting in the team room, fuelling up and watching other games.

"Yeah, it's a European Champions Cup weekend, it's exciting to be able to watch other teams as well. It gets the adrenaline going, you're sitting there watching all the other big teams play.

"It's a pretty cool feeling knowing you're going to go out the next day and do the same thing.

"Yeah, it's a big weekend coming ahead for us."

Henry will have to keep that adrenaline in check just a little longer than usual after again being named on the bench for tomorrow's game. The flanker admits it's been a frustrating campaign to date.

"I think the most games I've played in a row is three," he said.

"At the start of the season, I was carrying a knock on my collar bone and then my hamstring was a bit of a frustration obviously, that happened in the Harlequins game.

"I felt I was getting some good form in those matches and then I thought I was going to get back to contribute to at least one or two of the interpros over Christmas and it didn't happen.

"It is frustrating, but the one positive when you hurt your hamstring, it did give the shoulder a chance to recover, so that's feeling great.

"But look, I guess for me that's a challenge now. You've just got to try and make sure you're as fit as possible, take your chances when they come."

He added: "The most impressive thing for me from last week was the fact the Ulster back row was outstanding.

"There's been so much talk about the Leinster back row and how good the Leinster back rowers are and I'm the first to admit there's some quality coming through there.

"But I think it's wrong to just dismiss what Ulster are doing with Nick Timoney and Mattie Rea especially. Those two guys have bucketloads of talent and there's no telling how far they can go.

"For me, that was a real positive to see them really stepping up and showing that's where they belong. It didn't faze them playing, especially when you look at that La Rochelle back row.

"I thought the Ulster back row were outstanding and Sean Reidy bringing those two along, it's terrific to see that depth."

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