Thursday 27 July 2017

Henderson: We're desperate to win a trophy for Best

Negotiating their way to the play-offs won’t be easy, but Henderson (pictured) says anything less than a place in the final four would be a failure Photo: Sportsfile
Negotiating their way to the play-offs won’t be easy, but Henderson (pictured) says anything less than a place in the final four would be a failure Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Here we are again. The media suite has been upgraded with everything else at the Kingspan Stadium, but Ulster's players are talking once more about getting themselves over the line and winning a trophy to cap their progress on and off the pitch.

Only four players remain from the squad that last claimed the Celtic League trophy a decade ago and, while there were a few years when the province drifted without threatening, they have been ever-present at the business end of the season since 2011.

Taking the final step has been the issue, however, and the new generation of players are conscious that the old guard are not getting any younger.

They know that they are repeating themselves, but until they claim some silverware the script will remain the same. Iain Henderson is desperate to break the cycle and win a trophy for Rory Best and the other senior men.

"You can sit here and say time and time again you've learnt from last year," he said. "But until you produce the actions on the pitch . . . people say actions speak louder than words. I can say whatever I want in here and then we go out and lose again. . .

"Personally, though, it means a lot more to me this season, playing for Rory and some of the older ones who don't have too many seasons left.

"That's a strong feeling among the younger players in the squad, that we need to give something back to the club and we leave a legacy with the club. The likes of Rory Best, Roger Wilson, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble are getting up there now and only have one piece of silverware.

"We'd like to add more to the cabinet and give those boys a good send-off at the end of their careers. I know Rory has a few years left but it's about time he got paid some dividends for it."

Ulster's run-in is a tough one. Tomorrow, they welcome their bogey team Leinster to Belfast before they take on the Ospreys on the final day.

Currently fourth, they are just two points clear of the Scarlets who should beat Dragons tomorrow and, while they are away to Munster on the last weekend, Les Kiss and his team won't want to be relying on a favour from their friends in the south.

Negotiating their way to the play-offs won't be easy, but Henderson says anything less than a place in the final four would be a failure.

"It's been a long season for the internationals, from the Guinness series going into the World Cup. It would be unacceptable for us to let the season go to waste and not get to the play-offs and even the final," he said.

"There's no reason we go into any game not expecting to win. Every team we play, we fully expect to win. We've beaten them before and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't this weekend.

"Leinster are a good quality side. I have full confidence in us, I know we have an unbelievably strong side and if we click and get our team chemistry right, I think we're very hard to beat. We have to put our bodies on the line. The whole season's to play for."

While Ireland fans can begin to get excited about Henderson making the plane to South Africa, the 23-year-old is only thinking about domestic affairs.

"I'd much prefer to get the four games than get on tour. It's a massive game and a massive chance to stake a claim with the national coaches watching," he said.

"However, I still feel Ulster comes first, and first and foremost is Ulster v Leinster this weekend."

Irish Independent

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