Wednesday 21 March 2018

Schmidt factor convinces Henderson to back Ulster and Ireland future

Ireland's Iain Henderson following a press conference
Ireland's Iain Henderson following a press conference
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

IT was a good news day in Galway yesterday as two more members of the Ireland squad signed long-term deals.

Iain Henderson and Peter O'Mahony have committed until 2018, with the Munster skipper signing a national contract and the Ulster second-row/flanker signing with the province.

After the post-Johnny Sexton season in which there was a fear that more would follow the Ireland fly-half to France, yesterday's deals mean that no frontline international player will leave these shores this season.

It also continues the trend that has coincided with David Nucifora's appointment as IRFU performance director of players signing longer-term deals, adding security to the reasons to stay put.

"With the exception of JJ (Hanrahan), I think everyone is looking at how Ireland are doing at the moment, how Ireland will be going in the future and that's a massive boost to anyone looking to play for their province and then move on to the senior team," Henderson said.

"It's a massive inspiration for all the players whose ambitions are to go on and play for Ireland, given how well Joe (Schmidt) has been doing with the team."

Henderson also believes Ulster can bounce back from their disappointing campaign.

"With the player base we've got things are definitely looking up, especially with the new management in and Les (Kiss) coming back in the not too distant future," he said. "That will be a massive boost and everyone at Ulster is pretty excited about the future.

"Three or four weeks before I came back (from injury) there was a bit of a Twitter uproar and everyone was saying it was gone to the dogs, but two or three European Cup games don't go the way you plan against good teams like Toulon and Leicester. . .

"If we could have turned those around we could be approaching top of the group and second or third in the (Pro12) league, which is where we were.

"It's just a swing of two or three games completely changed everyone's perspective. However, we're in a really strong place in the league now and there's no reason why we can't push for a top place in the play-offs."

Henderson is likely to be released to the Ulster squad for tomorrow's game at Edinburgh to get some game-time ahead of the Six Nations clash with England.

Jamie Heaslip's injury has opened up a slot in the back-row and, while Jordi Murphy is the favourite to wear the No 8 jersey, Henderson won't let him have it easy.

"Against Italy I came on in the back-row so when I'm on the bench I'm able to cover a few different positions and I have to know all the detail for them," he said.

"I try and tune in during the week and make sure that I am able to cover these positions, so if I do end up coming on in either I'll hopefully know my detail and it will all be nailed on. This extra training camp this week will help get extra detail into our heads.

"I'll be happy to put my hand up for any position I get selected for."

Irish Independent

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