The competition in Ulster’s back three means a shiny new three-year contract guarantees Rob Lyttle nothing — but he is more than willing to fight for every chance he can get.
Jacob Stockdale, Will Addison, Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik, and Matt Faddes are all in contention for those starting roles in Saturday’s Champions Cup opener away to Bath.
Lyttle, 22, has started four of the six PRO14 games Ulster have played this season, scoring one try against Zebre, but he has impressed enough to earn a new deal keeping him at the Kingspan until 2023.
“Growing up watching guys like Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe, those guys were my heroes and now that they have left the wing jerseys in a good spot, maybe I can do a decent job,” he says.
“I’m happy with how things are going.
“I’ve had a few opportunities with people being away early doors and I just try my best to take those.
“I’ll just have to play my best and if that is not good enough, then there isn’t much I can do about that.
“If you were guaranteed a start every week, you’d rest and take it easy!
“But when you’re here where everybody apart from Hendy and Jacob is fighting for their spot, that is what you need.”
Henderson, Ulster’s new captain, is tipped to make his first appearance of the season at the Rec, probably in the second row alongside Australian Sam Carter.
Bath were recently thought to be English Premiership strugglers — that was until last week when they surprised many by beating the league leaders Northampton Saints 22-13.
Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, and Jamie Roberts are some of the world-class backs Ulster will be facing.
Given the number of times Ulster were turned over in contact in last weekend’s defeat away to Munster, looking after the ball will be their number one priority when they take on Bath.
“We’ve had a look at them, they have a very big, strong pack and obviously their back line has stars sprinkled throughout it and there are guys coming back from the World Cup with England and they are definitely a seriously good outfit,” Lyttle said.
“We don’t try and change too much of what we do.
“In Munster we didn’t have too much possession and we were defending a lot, but the easiest way to defend a team is to not give them the ball to start with.
“If we can focus on ourselves and have good ball security and play our game our way at a good fast pace, I think our best will be good enough.”