Iain Henderson back to boost Ulster Rugby

Ireland’s emerging star Iain Henderson returns to the Ulster starting line-up for tonight’s Champions Cup battle with high-flying Saracens at the Kingspan Stadium.
Iain Henderson back to boost Ulster Rugby

Henderson, who stood out during a disappointingly early World Cup exit, is named at blindside flanker in place of Robbie Diack after he made a quicker than expected return from surgery to a hand injury.

The experienced Callum Black is named at loose-head ahead of Kyle McCall with Weihann Herbst taking over from Ricky Lutton.

Also back into the starting line-up for the sell-out game is South African Louis Ludik. The former Sharks full-back was on the bench for last week’s postponed trip to Oyonnax, but director of rugby Les Kiss fills the side with experience for a game which has a ‘must win’ written all over it.

To put one over the Aviva Premiership pace-setters, Ludik believes that Ulster must improve their discipline, especially with visiting fly-half Owen Farrell bang on form with the boot.

“He’s an outstanding kicker and our discipline hasn’t been good lately, and I think a lot of times we’ve put ourselves under pressure. We’ve already spoken about it and making the right decisions.

“When I was watching the Saracens game with Toulouse, I couldn’t believe how quickly they got 16 points and it’s very difficult to play catch-up against them so our discipline is going to be massive,” said Ludik who emphasised that teams must win their home games if they want to progress in the competition.

With Saracens already having one big win in the bag, pressure is mounting on Ulster to get off the mark.

“If you lose a home game it’s almost game over as we saw with Toulon last season. We didn’t play very well against them, and it’s very difficult if you lose your home game it’s almost over and makes it very difficult,” said Ludik.

“There are negatives and positives out of not playing last week. It was to have been a shorter turnaround because we would have played on the Saturday. Obviously we are a little bit fresher for not playing and we’ve been able to train a little bit harder.”

Ludik sees Saracens as a massive task, but one that can be surmounted with the players Ulster have in their squad.

“We’ve got to stick to our guns. We’ve got the team and guys who can do what is needed and break their lines and break tackles. We’ve got the confidence that we can do it, but obviously they have an outstanding record and it’s not just going to happen, we’re going to have to up our game and try to outplay them.

“Their record speaks for itself, they haven’t been beaten this season so far and last week they upped their game against Toulouse and they were just a class act. It’s going to be a massive challenge and obviously with the crowd behind us at Kingspan we can pull through.

“Saracens like to kick the ball a lot and put them up high they try and force guys to make bad decisions at the back. But they can also change it up if they want to. If it’s a dry night they might play a bit more but whatever they do, they do with clarity and everyone knows what they’re doing.

“They’ve got a brilliant side and they can throw it around. We know what to expect and we just have to match it.”

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