Ireland star Iain Henderson has called on a rescue dog to aid his recovery from injury
The Ireland team could soon have a new mascot as star player Iain Henderson has rehomed a dog from a local sanctuary.
He may have a tough guy image on the rugby pitch, but the Ulster and Ireland flanker showed his softer side when he rescued Bailey the Weimaraner from Assisi Animal Sanctuary outside Newtownards.
The dog, who is around 18 months old, was given up by his owner a few weeks ago and Iain struck lucky when he went to the shelter to find a companion for his dog Lola, also a Weimaraner.
The player was looking for a very active dog who could keep up with him as he recovers from a serious hamstring injury that has ruled him out for the season.
He has recently stepped up his training to get fit again before the end of the season after a hamstring tear at the start of December. Assisi manager Heather Weatherup explained: "It's a breed we don't often get in and they do get rehomed really quickly.
He just happened to hit lucky and arrived here when he was just about to go up for adoption.
"Bailey will get lots of exercise with a rugby player. He said he wanted a breed that he would be able to go running with."
When Iain arrived at Assisi staff did not recognise him, Heather said that to them he was just another kind person who wanted to give an animal a new home.
"At first it was just somebody who was here to see a dog," she added.
"It was only when someone who is a big Ulster Rugby fan spotted him that we realised who he was."
She also said the centre hoped that the actions of the famous face may spur others on to rehome an animal.
Assisi seemed the natural choice for Iain to find a new pet as the squad have a long-term connection with Co Down rescue centre.
Heather explained: "Callum Black is one of our trustees and Craig Gilroy is an ambassador for us. A lot of our supporters from here follow the team and the guys would all come up for our open day if they can.
"It's always great to have someone famous help us. We've had a few guys from the Belfast Giants up here too. We welcome them at any time."