Tuesday 21 May 2019

Henderson understands his worth and is ready to lead Ulster – Best

Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile/Sam Barnes
Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile/Sam Barnes
David Kelly

David Kelly

Only three Ulster players have lifted a trophy in the professional era.

David Humphreys, unforgettably, did so in Lansdowne Road in 1999; Andy Ward, slightly less unforgettably, with the Celtic Cup in 2004, before Justin Harrison, the Australian, stood in for an injured Simon Best when they clinched the 2006 Celtic League on the final day.

Rory Best, after 14 years, has two games to become the province’s fourth; a reflection of a barren period for the club and unfulfilled success for the man who has achieved much in green.

Few believe they will beat Glasgow on Friday, though, and then the burden will shift to someone else; all eyes alight upon Iain Henderson, a player destined, but not always ready, to lead.

“The first time I remember him, he was just out of school and he came to train with us,” says Best.

“There was barely a pick on him and he had this long floppy hair. He didn’t train much because he had a patellar tendon problem.

“You were there thinking ‘who is this kid? He can’t even train, what chance does he have?’

“He’s done all right since then, so my judge of ability obviously isn’t that good.

“The way he has matured over the last couple of years, he’s a really good home life, he’s a really supportive wife that helps him, he’s a kid now which sometimes gives you a different perspective on life.

“He now understands his worth to Ulster. In his early career he might drift a bit, he had that natural ability that meant he could sort of pick it up and go.

“What you’ve seen from him over the last 18 months, two years, is somebody that understands the influence he has, how important he is.”

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