"I was devastated not to be involved, but it was class watching them beat New Zealand" - Iain Henderson 2 weeks ago

"I was devastated not to be involved, but it was class watching them beat New Zealand" - Iain Henderson

"Well, he's been doing it for 12 years now, and he's still going all right!"

It is United Rugby Championship launch day, in London, and Iain Henderson is divulging a bit of insider squad information on an Ulster teammate.

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Asked about the strangest diets in the Ulster squad, he mentions a physio with a 'really awful one' before settling on Luke Marshall. The pair have been at Ulster for over a decade, now, but this opportunity is too good to pass by.

"Lukey Marshall loves bacon fat. He's mad for eating egg yolks and bacon together... if he sees some bacon fat sitting on your plate, he'll ask after it. A lot of pro rugby players cut the whites off the eggs, just to eat them. He cuts the whites off his eggs, but just to eat the yolks."

Henderson is over in Slough for the URC launch as the rest of his team prepare for a [now cancelled] pre-season game against Glasgow Warriors. It will be another while before we see him in action for Ulster as he looks to get a clear run on injury issues that have taken chunks out of his past two seasons.

"I've been rehabbing from a couple of injuries, this summer," the Ulster captain tells us. "I'm getting back after my hand operation and a knee injury.

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"So, slow and steady but we're definitely getting there. From the touchline, where I've been doing my rehab, I've been watching to see how the rest of the team are getting on. They're going great, performing really well and being put under some serious pressure from the coaches. Hopefully it will put us in good stead for the first game."

Iain Henderson

"I was incredibly proud" - Iain Henderson on Ireland

After the wobble caused by Ulster and Leinster losing in the United Rugby Championship semi-finals, and Leinster falling to La Rochelle in the Champions Cup final, Irish rugby is back in buoyant, optimistic mood. On the whole.

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Ireland's historic series win over the All Blacks raised spirits considerably and while only a couple of Ulster players [Rob Herring and Kieran Treadwell] featured in the Tests, others like Henderson, James Hume and Rob Baloucoune should be involved in the November Tests if they start the season well.

Henderson travelled to New Zealand with the squad but was an early injury casualty. He went home to get his knee fixed, and had a hand operation while he knew there was a stretch ahead of him to get his body as right as he possibly could.

"The Rob Herring try, at the end of that last game [against New Zealand], was my probably favourite moment.

"I was devastated not to be involved, but it was class watching them doing it. I was there for a bit, at the start, and I saw what they wanted to do, and setting their stall out. It was really impressive. I was really disappointed not to be involved, but incredibly proud watching them, back home."

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Iain Henderson on professional rugby's GOAT

One question our reporter, Alex Roberts, had a chance to ask rugby players from the Premiership and United Rugby Championship, at the recent season launches, was, 'Who is the greatest rugby player of all time?'

Many of the players opted to choose from rugby stars in the professional era [from 1995], although Saracens' Alex Goode did opt for Wales and Lions legend Gareth Edwards.

Iain Henderson looked to have made his call, then wavered, then took a deep breath and plunged in:

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"Of the modern era," he began, "it probably has to be Dan Carter.

"Brian O'Driscoll has to be up there. Johnny Sexton, although he's not retired yet. I'll go Brian O'Driscoll... or Dan Carter. No! I'll go Brian O'Driscoll."

The beauty for Iain Henderson, and others, here is that rugby excellence and impact is in the eye of the beholder.

There is no right answer, but that is what makes these Greatest Of All Time debates so wonderful, and engaging.

*Ulster kick off their United Rugby Championship campaign with a 7:35pm kick-off against Glasgow, at Kingspan Stadium, on Saturday, September 17.


Leinster and Ireland star Will Connors on his rugby journey


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