Iain Henderson: Challenge Cup success would be among proudest moments of my career

Ireland Grand Slam winner keen to clinch silverware with Ulster

Ulster's Iain Henderson
Ulster's Iain Henderson
EPRC Challenge Cup round of 16
Montpellier v Ulster (Sunday, 12.30pm, Viaplay Sports 1)

TWO-TIME Grand Slam winner Iain Henderson believes winning the European Challenge Cup with Ulster would be the one of the proudest moment of his career.

Henderson has been part of five Ireland squads that have won Six Nations titles but has never lifted any silverware with his native province.

Ulster face Montpellier in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup on Sunday afternoon.

“Silverware has eluded Ulster Rugby for my entire career and everyone’s current playing career at Ulster,” stated Henderson.

“That’s been a massive bugbear of mine, to be able to captain them to it would be one of the proudest moments of my career if it were to happen.”

“Where we are at the minute, we have to take it game by game.”

“I’m not going to say we’re going to go and win the Challenge Cup.”

“Yes, it would be great and delightful to do that but I’m not going to get ahead of ourselves., we have a lot of things that need fixing before we go making statements like that.”

“I believe we have the right calibre of players individually, if I write down our best 23 to be involved on a match night, I think we’re capable.”

“The way we’re playing at the minute, I don’t think we’re there, we have a lot of hard work to do.”

“Some players might think I’m being harsh but I’m pretty sure I could talk them round to agreeing with me.”

Ulster have faced French opposition twice already this season although both were at home.

They beat Racing 92 31-15 with a bonus-point their only win in their last five European games before being undone by an Antoine Dupont master class as Toulouse left Belfast 48-24 winners.

“Consistency is another point Richie (Murphy) has raised and I think a lot of that comes down to what opposition you are presented with.”

“The way we were playing before I felt it was what the opposition were presenting you with on the night as to whether or not what you tried was coming off rather than relying on what you were doing.”

“We started that game really well against Racing we had an unbelievable crowd and a good buzz in the stadium, and we fed off them and that was a huge part of the reason for that win rather than our breakdown being really good and having really good attacking shapes and ensuring we were playing really nice rugby.”

“Yes, it looked nice because the result came off and a handful of things went our way but that’s not enough to consistently play really well.

Bath Rugby's Finn Russell tackled by Ulster Rugby's Tom Stewart and Iain Henderson during the Investec Champions Cup match at The Recreation Ground
Bath Rugby's Finn Russell tackled by Ulster Rugby's Tom Stewart and Iain Henderson during the Investec Champions Cup match at The Recreation Ground

“Any team can beat any other team on their day, we did beat Leinster this year, but Leinster are a much better team than we are because they can string performances together consistently throughout a whole season.”

“That’s somewhere we need to strive to get to.”

Ulster have lost 10 of their last 14 knockout games in all competitions.

“If I had the answer sitting here, I’d have implemented it many years ago.”

“I’m excited, I have the same buzz going into this one as I have going into past ones, I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

“I know the young guys who have been in this position before are champing at the bit to get another opportunity in knock-out rugby.”

“That’s fantastic, their ambition and drive to be involved in knock-out rugby is brilliant, it’s exciting.”

“Richie has come in and we know there’s a lot of work that’s needed to be done, we’ve covered a lot in the last two weeks and there’s a lot more to come.”

“We’re seeing massive strides session on session and if we see them coming out in the weeks ahead in European rugby, that’ll be brilliant.”