Saturday 20 January 2018

Young gun Henderson eager to seize chance on European stage

David Kelly

David Kelly

Classy Ulster back-row Iain Henderson is intent on proving his worth in the week that he was handed a ticket to rugby's big time after penning a three-year deal with his home province.

Although his inclusion forces Stephen Ferris to switch to No 8 in the absence of Nick Williams, blindside Henderson is eager to demonstrate that he has what it takes to make his mark on the big stage.

"I can't wait," enthuses the 20-year-old, who has already been earmarked as one of the breakthrough players for the 2015 World Cup by national coach Declan Kidney.

"I've been watching games at Ravenhill since I was a kid and I'm really looking forward to pulling on the white jersey and experiencing the atmosphere as a player.

"My first aim for the season was to be involved in a few Pro12 games but with the few injuries that we have in the back-row, I've been given an opportunity and I have to try and grab it with both hands."

The rest of the team is unchanged from Friday's clinical victory over Connacht; the only change on the bench sees Ruan Pienaar, who returned from South Africa duty this week, named in place of Michael Heaney.

After missing most of 2011-12 with an Achilles tendon injury, impressively fluid full-back Jared Payne will also make his European bow as Ulster seek to prove that last season's run to the final was no flash in the pan.

With Castres making 10 changes to the side that defeated Clermont in the Top 14 last week, demonstrating their perennial indifference to European fare, this should offer a five-point target for Mark Anscombe's men.

Verdict: Ulster

Ulster -- J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; I Henderson, C Henry, S Ferris. Reps: R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, M McComish, R Pienaar, L Marshall, C Gilroy.

Castres -- R Teulet; M Garvey, S Bai, D Kirkpatrick, M Andreu; P Bernard, T Lacrampe; Y Forestieer, M Bonello, M Coetzee, M Rolland (c), R Ortega, P Faasalele, Y Caballero, P Wannenburg. Reps: M A Rallier, G Marmoiton, H Lazar, J Tekori, A Claassen, R Kockott, P Bonnefond, T Sanchou.

REF -- A Small (RFU)

Ulster v Castres

Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0

Irish Independent

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