Tuesday 21 November 2017

Henderson planning for a summer of big days

Iain Henderson in action. Photo: Sportsfile
Iain Henderson in action. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

If you thought travelling, preparing and playing during the relentless schedule of a Lions tour was a challenge, try Iain Henderson's post-tour itinerary.

"I think the Ulster boys are getting back in to Belfast at about 8pm on the 12th of July and I'm getting married at noon on the 14th of July," he said with a smile yesterday. "I somehow managed to cut that as fine as possible."

His fiancée Suzanne Flanagan will take a break from the wedding planning for a brief stint in New Zealand, but ultimately the big day has been her project as her husband-to-be tackles the tour of a lifetime.

His tour didn't start in the most auspicious circumstances when he failed to fire in Whangarei against the Provincial Barbarians, but he is hoping he can fight his way into Test contention and then float home on a high to follow a career high with a personal one.

"As far as I'm aware all the wedding planning is going very smoothly," he said. "Outside of that I'm glad to be sleeping during the day at home so I don't have to worry about any of that.

"It will definitely be tight enough getting back home jet-lagged and then going on honeymoon over to Singapore. So that week between the 12th and 16th will definitely be sleepless.

"I don't know whether I'll be tired or not. I'll have to just wait and see how that comes, and hopefully it will all work out fine."

Although the wedding is on his mind, his main focus right now is this morning's game and he can feel the Lions coming together.

"Everyone's a little more confident in the systems and structures now. Confident with each other, confident in other people's company, playing with people, training with them a bit more," he said.

"That's definitely been evident to me in training, things have been gelling better and that's probably evident in the game just past.

"Everyone's working slightly better together as a whole unit and so all these wee bits and pieces that are getting better in training are hopefully going to keep on building towards performances for us.

"However, it's been really good going out for a few bites of food, a good few coffees going around with a lot of the other lads and you can definitely see it now; we're into our third week since we left London, everyone's a lot more comfortable with each other.

"In that first week, you're still really getting to know the guys; there's definitely a real feeling in the squad; not only on the pitch but off the pitch, which I think is more important."

"Guys are comfortable with each other, guys playing a bit of FIFA, ping-pong, having a bit of craic in the team-room - that's vital and key to making sure we're good on the pitch, being secure off the pitch."

They might have to find more space at the wedding.

Irish Independent

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