RUGBY: Iain Henderson braced for huge summer after British Lions selection

Iain Henderson
Iain Henderson

What was already going to be an eventful summer for Ireland and Ulster lock Iain Henderson just got bigger.

The 25-year-old lock was named on Warren Gatland’s 41-man squad for the summer tour to New Zealand on Wednesday..

It adds further to an already hectic schedule, with Henderson getting married this summer.

Genuinely looking a bit shocked when he arrived at Kingspan Stadium to meet the Press yesterday, Henderson revealed he cut the grass at his home after the news was confirmed.

He had joined fiancée Suzanne and his dogs to watch the Lions squad announcement live on Sky TV.

“I was shocked and a bit excited and obviously proud,” said Henderson, who was one of three Ulster players named on the panel along with eight Ireland players.

“I think it took me a wee while to realise what had happened. I am a bit shaken.

“Dad was the first person I called - and he already knew,” laughed Henderson. “He gave me the usual ‘well done’ and I was like ‘thank you’. That was about as much as I got out of him.”

Henderson’s rugby career has seen him come from the Roughtfort fields on Belfast Royal Academy, through Queen’s University, before making his Ulster senior debut five years ago this week and going on to make 73 appearances.

He made his Ireland debut off the bench against South Africa in November 2012 and has since gone on to make 32 appearances in the green jersey.

Henderson had been widely tipped at the start of the current season of being a strong candidate to make the Lions squad for the New Zealand tour.

But an injury affected season left him with work to do and coming in and out of the Ireland squad as he did in the recent Six Nations Championship may have taken him off the radar slightly.

However, a big performance against England - he scored the Irish try - as Ireland stopped a Grand Slam and an 18-match unbeaten run put him back in the reckoning.

Henderson revealed that it was not the first time he had been pictured wearing the famous red Lions jersey.

“Four years ago I got the pictures taken in advance - everyone gets a picture in a Lions jersey,” he smiled.

“This time I have been named in the squad so that is progress I guess.

“I am still quite shaken by the news and shocked by it.

We have got a good part of the season left with Ulster so before I can actually probably fathom what it is going to mean to me to put it on I will have to get there first with my injury record, I will have to make sure I stay out of the physio room or the doc’s room.

“However, I am immensely proud and really grateful to family and friends who had stuck by me and it means a huge amount to be able to be named in the squad and hopefully can go on through the summer and actually get on playing,” he added.