Heineken Champions Cup: Ulster return a 'welcome distraction' says captain Iain Henderson

Iain Henderson
Henderson made his first appearance since being appointed as club captain on Saturday

Ulster captain Iain Henderson says he is relishing being able to focus on club rugby following Ireland's World Cup disappointment.

The 27-year-old lock made his first provincial outing of the season in Saturday's nail-biting Champions Cup win over Bath.

It was also Henderson's first outing since being named as club captain in July.

"It's probably a welcome distraction for a lot of boys," he admitted.

"A lot of the guys who were away at the World Cup, not just for Ireland, would be happy for the distraction of club rugby to come back in."

Having been named as successor to Rory Best, Henderson's tenure as club captain began with a four-month absence due to his international involvement.

However, with all Irish players keen to put their World Cup woes behind them, Henderson's increased responsibility at Ulster gives him little opportunity to dwell on the disappointment,

"From a coaching point of view it may be slightly more difficult," he said.

"The international coaches have to wait for the next window to come around and it's a long time to mull over quite a painful defeat."

It was yet another harrowing World Cup experience for Ireland, who entered the tournament ranked as the world's number one side, only to return home with their stock considerably lower.

Henderson started four of Ireland's five matches in Japan as Joe Schmidt's reign as head coach ended in a quarter-final thumping against New Zealand.

Ireland RWC
Ireland's World Cup campaign was emphatically ended by New Zealand in Tokyo

"Putting a finger on (what went wrong) would be quite difficult," he reflected.

"A lot of sports, not only rugby, come down to form.

"There's a lot of speculation about what form actually is, how you find it.

"That's something we weren't in at the time of the World Cup."

With international rugby now sidelined until the Six Nations begins in February, Henderson's attentions return to provincial matters, where he will be hoping to steer Ulster into the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup following their opening victory.

The northern province welcome Clermont Auvergne to Belfast on Friday knowing a win will see them move top of Pool Three.

Henderson will however be without new second row partner Sam Carter, after the Australian was ruled out of the fixture having been forced off against Bath with a shoulder injury.

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