Iain Henderson to make long-awaited Ulster comeback
British and Irish Lion Iain Henderson will make his long-awaited return to Ulster colours when the province welcome the Dragons on Friday night (7.35pm kick-off).
The 25-year-old last played in the final midweek game of the Lions’ summer tour to New Zealand but has been cleared to make his comeback off the bench against the Newport outfit as Ulster look for a fourth win of the new season.
While fellow tourist Rory Best is out for up to six weeks with a hamstring tear, the final member of Ulster’s Lions trio, Jared Payne, is expected to make his own comeback against the Dragons next week.
One man who may not figure this weekend, however, is Marcell Coetzee as he continues to nurse a bang to his surgically repaired knee.
Having been limited to only four outings in his debut season with Ulster, the Springbok excelled in the opening round win over the Cheetahs but has not been seen since.
“It’s the knee so we’re just making sure it’s all in a good place and go through the right processes,” Director of Rugby Les Kiss explained yesterday. “He’s got fluid in it so it’s just working through that and making sure it’s clear on all that.
“We’re just looking after it and it may be a case that this knee flares up every now and then. We’re just keeping an eye on it at this stage. Hopefully if not this week, (he’ll return) next week.”
If it seems likely that Coetzee, and indeed his fellow Springbok back-rower Jean Deysel, are to miss out, Kiss was more optimistic on the prognosis for Charles Piutau.
The All Black back three player has missed the last two games with a hamstring complaint but is primed to return, possibly in place of Louis Ludik, who will not play this week after requiring an HIA in last Friday's win over league champion Scarlets.
With a hectic month of October now on the horizon - Ulster will have their opening rounds of Champions Cup action sandwiched between two inter-pros - it may not just be injuries that influence this week's selection with Kiss debating giving some key men a breather over the next two weeks.
"That is where we will have a couple of changes there," said the Australian.
"There's a couple of guys that have some knocks that probably would be alright for this week, but we might rest a couple of those and (look at others) in that area.
"It is hard when you want to try and give guys a run because you need three deep in each area if you can, but we still just need to see a couple of guys at that next level.
"There will be a couple of changes for sure.
"With Jean, he just got a poke in the eye and it is just managing the bruising on it because you do not want another knock on it and having to manage if further. We will get some more clarity on it this week and see where we are, but touch wood everything is good there."