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Henderson can inspire Lions, insists Best

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Top man: Iain Henderson has the chance to sparkle for the Lions. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Top man: Iain Henderson has the chance to sparkle for the Lions. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Top man: Iain Henderson has the chance to sparkle for the Lions. Credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ulster and Ireland legend Rory Best has backed the “phenomenal” Iain Henderson to make a big impact on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.

The invitational side play their first game on opposition turf against the Emirates Lions on Saturday evening as they build towards a three-game Test series against the world champions Springboks.

And Best, who was a two-time tourist himself, thinks Henderson is primed to play a big role in those games having just missed out on the Test side in New Zealand four years ago.

"I think he's playing the best rugby of anyone for Ireland this year, probably a toss up between him, Tadhg Beirne and Robbie Henshaw for that tag,” said Best of his former team-mate.

“We've come to expect it when he's playing for Ulster because he's this talismanic leader that everyone looks to and he thrives in that environment but for him to step up and do it on the international stage has been really impressive.

"When I look back at the way he finished the tour four years ago, I hope that he starts this tour in that form and keeps getting better. He's a phenomenal talent and he didn't get talked about as much as I think he should have when the squad was being named.”

Warren Gatland will name his side for the weekend this morning and is expected to rotate after last week’s win over Japan.

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