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Iain Henderson should be fit to face Leinster in Ulster's quarter-final: Schmidt

Iain Henderson
Iain Henderson

By Michael Sadlier

Joe Schmidt has raised hopes that Iain Henderson's latest injury will not rule him out of playing in Ulster's crunch European Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster.

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The 27-year-old picked up a knee ligament injury when putting in an impressive shift for Ireland against France last Sunday and will play no part in tomorrow's closing Six Nations clash against Grand Slam-chasing Wales in Cardiff.

But while Henderson's Six Nations is done, Irish coach Schmidt refused to rule him out of being involved with Ulster in just over a fortnight's time when they meet reigning European champions Leinster at a sold-out Aviva Stadium.

"It's not a serious injury," Schmidt said of the issue. "A sprained knee? Guys come back in three weeks, and if he was back then he would be there (ready to be at the quarter-final).

"I can't see him playing next week (when Ulster meet the Southern Kings at Kingspan Stadium), but I could potentially see him then play the week after that."

Regarding how Henderson got the knock, Schmidt added: "He picked it up during the game. He didn't even realise that he had it and it wasn't until we got back to the team hotel that he just felt his knee was a bit sore."

Meanwhile, the two set-ups have clashed about whether to close the Principality Stadium roof for tomorrow's game.

With a bleak weather outlook, Wales coach Warren Gatland wants to close the stadium roof but he needs Schmidt's approval.

Schmidt does not have to decide until today, but he pointed out that, when Ireland agreed to close the roof two seasons ago, the pitch was watered anyway.

Schmidt said: "They've said to the Six Nations directly, 'Can it be closed?'"

When it was put to Schmidt that normally the visitors would be asked to decide on the roof, Schmidt replied: "Yes, normally."

Schmidt has made three changes to his starting side with Rob Kearney, Sean O'Brien and Tadhg Beirne selected.

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