Ulster’s international flanker Chris Henry will be making a last-ditch effort to be included in Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad for the remainder of the Six Nations Championship .
Henry, who was first-choice open-side during the 2014 Championship-winning side, was sidelined last season following heart surgery for a mini-stroke on the eve of the November Test against South Africa in the same year. He recovered to play his part in Ireland’s World Cup campaign last year but recently suffered frustration following four weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder problem. The 31-year-old is busting to get into the thick of the action again, starting by wearing the Ulster number seven jersey this Sunday against the Scarlets at the Kingspan Stadium.
“This injury has been a real niggly one,” said the Belfast-born flanker. “I came back a little too early when we played Edinburgh at home then Oyonnax the following week. So, yes on hindsight, I think I came back too soon. Now I’m over the worst and starting to feel that I’ve a normal shoulder again. As a player it’s always frustrating watching games and it’s not very nice.
“But I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my career and all to do with timing, in that I’ve missed three Six Nations campaigns with a hamstring problem, knee surgery and the heart procedureI had last season. But these things happen and up to now, touch wood, I’ve been lucky in regards to muscle and tissue injuries. The current injury was a bit of weird one in that there as a tear in the shoulder plus a lot of other things going on with bruising and the AC joint was aggravated, so basically I needed time to let it to heal properly.
“It was due to my own desire to get back in the hunt for an international place that I was a bit premature. It just shows you that you need to be fit.”
Henry believes he need game time with Ulster to improve his chances of showing his fitness to national coach Schmidt.
“Even with all the training, when you come back, you are a little bit off the pace, in missing the bumps and bruises that you need to get hardened quickly.
“If anything happens in regards to Ireland it would be amazing. But really now it’s about getting back into a rhythm and contribute in an Ulster shirt. Sean Reidy has done a brilliant job at seven, so that’s my focus, with Ulster and if that’s enough time for Joe (Schmidt) to think I can do something that would be brilliant. Maybe even getting down to train would be a massive bonus. At the moment, I just have to focus in trying to help Ulster continue at the top of the table.
“We have home advantage on Sunday and although it has been evident we have not been playing well, we are still at the top and hopefully we will continue to go through the process and the basics and start putting in some good performances.
“Like us the Scarlets have also been a bit hot and cold and they’ve lost their number one slot. It promises to be a big match up, but I think there’s more to come out of our pack and hopefully this week we can kick on.”
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