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Munster v Ulster: Iain Henderson must wait for chance to get back to business

By Cian Tracey

The dust may be starting to settle on Ireland's whimpering World Cup exit but the disappointment is still very evident in the voice of Iain Henderson.

In a tournament that promised so much but delivered so little, the emergence of Henderson was one of the few positives to surface from the wreckage.

Life after Paul O'Connell begins now but Henderson's performances at the World Cup have, at least, given some cause for optimism going forward.

To compound what has been a bitterly frustrating couple of weeks for the 23-year old, he underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a ligament in his hand on and faces up to six weeks on the sidelines. It's a minor setback for a player who was hitting top form during the World Cup but, ever the optimist, he knows the timing could have been a lot worse.

"It's frustrating not being able to get straight back into it this week," he admitted. "Some guys prefer a longer break but I was scheduled to come off the bench (for Ulster) tonight so, from that end, it's very disappointing.

"I guess if I had picked up this injury in one of the warm-up games, I would have missed theWorld Cup so, in all, it's not the worst time for it to happen.

"I got my finger caught in a jersey, it was just one of those unfortunate things. I was able to pop it back in myself but it came out again.

"The surgery went well. It was actually very bizarre, I went in to meet the surgeon and he asked me if I wanted a local or a general anaesthetic so I went with the local.

"I told him I was a bit worried about fainting but I was lying down for it anyway so he said I'd be alright!

"He gave me a couple of injections so I was just watching him slicing away at my hand and he was able to show me where I'd ripped the ligament off the bone. I thought I'd be squeamish but I actually found it very interesting."

Not much fazes Henderson which, in turn, is probably why, despite his relative inexperience at international level, he was one of Ireland's standout players at the World Cup.

The Irish players' focus may have switched back to their clubs but, as Henderson explained, they are only too aware that a brutal video session with Joe Schmidt awaits them when the squad reconvenes after Christmas, ahead of the Six Nations.

"It's always disappointing when you lose massive games and get knocked out of tournaments but it's important that you don't dwell on it and you move on," Henderson maintained.

"We haven't reviewed the Argentina game as a squad yet. There was no real mention or analysis of it afterwards. Everything stops now with Ireland until after Christmas and I think Joe just wants players to be fully concentrating on their clubs.

"There was no point in him probing guys straight after the game. I'm sure when we get back into camp before the Six Nations we will fix those problems then."

Despite the disappointment of yet another premature Irish exit on the world stage, Henderson takes the positives away from it, especially from a personal point of view.

"You have to have a certain level of self-appraisal. I was happy with how I performed but I know that there is always work-ons. For me personally, my breakdown work still needs to improve.

"I always feel like I play better when I have a run of games under my belt and Joe allowed me that in the warm-up games which is why I think I was able to use it as a springboard and kick on from there.

"I think I've become more comfortable playing with a different group of players at a much higher level.

"I'm well able to keep up with the pace of international games now and I've realised the extra physical edge that you need to bring to international rugby.

"It's important to take stock and realise that it's not all doom and gloom. Lots of players did perform really well and will be back again."

Meanwhile, in tonight's other Pro12 clash Taulupe Faletau will start for Dragons against Scarlets after his proposed transfer to Bath was blocked by Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

The number eight is one of four changes from the Dragons' win against Treviso.

Wales wing Harry Robinson makes his first Scarlets start since having neck surgery in May, with Tom Williams on the opposite flank. And Regan King's son, Jacob Cowley, could make his debut after being named on the bench for the first time.

The 18-year-old has moved from his home in New Zealand to team up with his father, who said recently he hadn't seen him play rugby "since he was about 10".

Pro12 leaders Scarlets, who make six changes to the side that beat Munster, have the only 100% record in the league and face a Dragons team with two wins from their five games.

The Newport-based region will have Faletau in their side for the first time this season, after helping Wales reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Belfast Telegraph

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