Sunday 4 December 2016

Henderson banking on injury-free campaign

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Iain Henderson admits that it’s impossible for players to be 100 pc fit. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Iain Henderson admits that it’s impossible for players to be 100 pc fit. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"When I'm on the street, I've got Friday on my mind," sang Bruce Springsteen in Croke Park last May as thousands echoed in unison to 'Out in the Street'.

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"That was probably my favourite moment, from so many," smiles Boss devotee Iain Henderson as he briefly recalls a seminal summer in both the professional and personal life of the 24-year-old Ulster and Ireland forward.

Friday night was on his mind all last week as he prepared for his seasonal debut, capping off his return from the bench with the final-play try that finally buried Scarlets in Ravenhill.

His last on-field efforts had been in vain, as he and Ireland narrowly failed to push home an obvious opportunity to create history with a series win in South Africa.

Then, on holiday, Henderson proposed to his long-term fiancée, Suzanne Flanagan; the question was popped in storied fashion, upon one knee; the preamble was slightly more frazzled.

His plan was to secrete the sacred ring upon his person for the entire holiday; trouble was, the holiday encapsulated a theme park, during which he had to endure everything from roller-coaster rides to Ferris Wheels.

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Just as opposition packs have rarely succeeded in their grapple with this beast for ownership of the ball, he managed to retain his hold on this priceless possession. Just.

"I was terrified," says the man who seems only to terrify others. "I had only one pair of shorts with a zip pocket. She was wondering why I wasn't changing my shorts the whole holiday. Absolutely nerve-wracking…"

Personal happiness granted, professional ambitions now overtake him; it is a Lions year, of course, but those thoughts don't distract them - some have even vaguely touted captaincy his way.

Henderson merely wishes to be as injury-free as possible after a series of incidents that have derailed his otherwise irrepressible progress in the sport.

Aspiration

"Being injury-free cannot be a goal, you can't take control of it," he concedes. "It's an aspiration or a wish.

"I want to play the majority of the season as injury-free as I can, the less the better for me so I can get a consistent run of games so I can really enjoy my rugby a little.

"You're always doing some sort of rehab from a niggle, you always have to be on top of everything.

"I'm doing what I need to do throughout the week to prevent whatever can happen. I do whatever I can but it can happen at any moment.

"It is a constant battle and all any player can try to do is make the best effort they can to try to prevent any issues occurring and, if they do, put themselves in the best position to overcome them."

Today's moment sees he and Ulster prepare for a visit to Glasgow and a Scotstoun venue from where the province have always returned empty-handed.

An unbeaten start fills them with confidence and victory would be a defining statement after a relatively untroubling trio of opening fixtures against much weaker opposition.

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Ahead of their next assignment, winger Craig Gilroy and centre Luke Marshall have been ruled out of the Glasgow trip.

Gilroy sustained a toe muscle injury in last Friday's win while Marshall, worryingly considering his appalling history with the issue, suffered a concussive injury in the same match.

Rory Best is likely to enter the fray as a replacement, with Jared Payne also set to be involved at some stage after overcoming calf trouble on Irish duty in Carton House recently.

Prop Kyle McCall is a doubt after picking up a side abdominal injury against the Scarlets while supporters will fret about another international wing, Andrew Trimble, whose return from foot trouble has been delayed once again.

Lock Dan Tuohy (ankle) should "soon be available for selection" following long-term lay-offs.

Flanker Chris Henry (shoulder) and prop Wiehahn Herbst (groin) are pencilled in for their comebacks within the next six weeks.

Front-row pair Ricky Lutton and Johnny Murphy (both groin) are set to return in two-to-three weeks, while winger Jacob Stockdale remains out with a toe injury and is expected to be available in a fortnight.

Irish Independent

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