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Ulster's Iain Henderson is on way back to provide boost

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster will be handed a massive boost ahead of their crucial Guinness PRO12 run in with Iain Henderson in line to return for the crunch meeting with Glasgow on Friday night (7.35pm kick-off).

The star forward tore a hamstring against Edinburgh back in December and there were fears then that he could miss the rest of the province's season.

With the 24-year-old once again making a quicker than expected recovery, Director of Rugby Les Kiss yesterday revealed that Ireland's World Cup hero  could be ready for the trip to Scotstoun.

"Hendy is right in the mix at this stage," revealed the Australian.

"We'll see how he pulls up after the next session.

"If everything comes up rosy, he's in the mix, but we have to wait and see the reports from training."

With Ulster back in action after a three-week break, there was plenty of good news coming from the Kingspan with Tommy Bowe another Irish international nearing a return.

The two-time Lion has been out of action since shipping a serious knee injury in October's World Cup quarter-final loss to Argentina with Kiss saying that he is not far away from fitness.

"Tommy is getting closer and closer, without a doubt," he said.

"For the nature of the injury he had, we're just being very careful about when he comes back into everything at full tilt."

Kiss added: "He's taking contact in a really strong way now, so he could play rugby.

"There are a few other areas he just needs to get right. He's probably a little bit behind Hendy, to tell you the truth."

Darren Cave and Nick Williams are available to Kiss for the clash with last season's champions while prop Wiehahn Herbst is aiming for a mid-April return from his foot problem.

It was not all good news for the province, however, with lock Dan Tuohy's own foot issue now set to rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.

A healthier squad will be a considerable boon to Kiss over the course of the final five games as he aims to navigate Ulster into the play-offs while the return of his Irish stars from the Six Nations adds another dash of quality.

While at present Kiss does not expect Rory Best, Jared Payne or Andrew Trimble to feature on Friday, the trio will certainly come into contention for Connacht at home a week later as the race for the top four heats up.

"Of the three key guys who are starters - Besty, Trimble and Jared - the opportunity is possibly there to have one or two of them on the bench, but at this stage we're banking on not having any," he said.

"We may have one or two, but we'll see.

"We have a process now to get the guys back into our systems and attack the games the way we like to. It's nice to have most of the guys back. There's still two or three to join the fray completely but we're on the other side of that now.

"It's an end-game for the PRO12 and that's exciting and motivating everyone. There's a lot to play for.

"It's probably the toughest and most competitive PRO12 I've seen. People are going to steal points off each other and have unexpected results. That's going to change the nature of the competition probably right up until the Zebre match (in mid-April).

"Post-Zebre you're going to be really clear I think so the next three games are going to be important from our perspective.

"That brings you right back to the only game that matters, and that's Glasgow."

Belfast Telegraph

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