Henderson ban could include first World Cup warm-up match
Home semi-final for Ulster in Pro 12 still possible if results elsewhere go their way
Ulster’s Iain Henderson faces disciplinary hearing in Wales today after being sent off against Munster on Saturday. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho/Presseye
Ulster find out today whether they will be without Iain Henderson for the remainder of their Guinness Pro 12 campaign. The 23-year-old, who faces a disciplinary hearing in Wales, could also miss Ireland’s World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff on August 8th if found guilty of striking with the head.
That’s if the committee decide that the low-end punishment of four weeks under rule 10.4(a) – punching or striking – is sufficient for the 74th minute red card during last Saturday’s 23-all draw with Munster.
After Henderson cleaned Ronan O’Mahony at a ruck, referee Nigel Owens, having consulted television match official Kevin Beggs, said: “The footage I’ve seen was pretty clear. You have led with the head. You have been careless, you have been reckless and leading with the head you have made contact with the player’s head and that is a red card offence.”
There is precedent for Henderson to return in time for the Pro 12 final at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast on May 30th, should the all-Welsh committee, taking into consideration his clean record, decide to halve the four-week sanction.
A mid-range suspension goes from 10 weeks with a top-end ban starting at 16 weeks. “In the modern game there are quite a lot of players who don’t bind on each other,” said Ulster coach Neil Doak, responding to the suggestion that Henderson was not bound to a teammate or opponent when entering the ruck as law 16.2 (b) states he must be.
“The law is there but it is not really reffed,” Doak said. “Players have to bind on somebody to get into the ruck but it doesn’t really happen that often.”
Two-thirds of the Ulster backrow could be unavailable for Saturday’s trip to Glasgow (live Sky Sports) as Roger Wilson undergoes return-to-play protocols, having sustained concussion.
Even with a bonus point victory, Doak’s team need Connacht to beat the Ospreys in Galway or the Dragons to win in Cork (live TG4) to secure a home semi-final.
On the road
“The beauty of all the games kicking off at the same time means come the last quarter all the teams will know what they have to do. That may play into our hands.”