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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 21 April, 2014

‘With Sean out, I’ve an opportunity to stake my claim’ – Chris Henry

The Ulster flanker is hoping to show Ireland coach Joe Schmidt what he can do after returning from a hamstring injury.

An injured Chris Henry is replaced by Sean O'Brien back in November.
An injured Chris Henry is replaced by Sean O'Brien back in November.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

BOTH CHRIS HENRY and Rory Best were unfortunate to pick up injuries while on Ireland duty in November.

Henry suffered a hamstring tear and Best fractured his arm but, coincidentally, the Ulster duo were also left to play on until there was a break in play. Best tossed personal welfare out of the window by diving into a ruck, and a heap of All Blacks, with one functioning arm. Henry felt his hamstring pop, against Samoa, and played on until the ball went dead.

“I was loving the game, to be honest with you, and was getting into the mix, especially in defence,” Henry told TheScore.ie. “I felt my hamstring go around the half-hour mark and knew my game was up. Unfortunately, the ball stayed in play for another three and a half minutes so I was out there hobbling around.”

“I had my scan on the Sunday [day after] but my bags were packed already. It’s part of the nature of rugby, though. I was out for seven weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever been during a season. I had a little set-back two weeks ago when I rolled my ankle but I’m back running and am delighted to be back.”

Sean O’Brien replaced Henry in the comfortable home win over Samoa and scored a typically abrasive second-half try. The Leinster flanker dislocated his shoulder against Ulster at the weekend, however, and a surgical intervention now means he will miss most of the Six Nations. Rugby often gives with one calloused hand and takes with another so Henry’s return to the Ulster back-row could not come at a better time for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt. The openside said:

It is devastating news for Sean O’Brien. For myself, it is about getting back in the Ulster team and putting in the performances here, one week at a time. Hopefully I’ll do enough to get into the Six Nations squad. It’s up to Joe then if he wants to pick me.

“I got a knee injury last season [after the Wales and England Six Nations games] so I know how much he’ll be wanting to get back. It’s an opportunity for me, with Sean out, and I’ve got that opportunity to play and stake my claim. Saying that, there are a few other boys who are probably thinking the same.”

One of those boys is a flanker who toured North America with Ireland, and Henry, during the summer and who is also set for a return to action after an injury lay-off. Tommy O’Donnell is back in full training with Munster and should play some part of their interprovincial, league clash with Ulster. Rugby fans may be in for a treat if both men are selected to start.

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Tommy O’Donnell will be hoping to start for Munster at Ravenhill on Friday. INPHO/Billy Stickland

“Tommy is a bit like myself,” explains Henry, “as he did not get a good run of games until he was a wee bit older. I rate him highly. From training and playing with him on the summer tour, I got to see just how good he is.

“If he is selected, and so am I, there should be a bit of edge and a bit of bite to our contest. Interpro games are always interesting battles and it will be exciting to put it up to Munster.”

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