Ulster flanker Chris Henry braced for first appearance since heart surgery
Chris Henry will make his comeback for Ulster tonight four months after suffering his career-threatening health scare.
The 30-year-old Ireland flanker, who suffered a mini-stroke in November and then underwent heart surgery, has been named on Ulster's bench for their must-win PRO12 clash with Cardiff Blues at the Kingspan Stadium.
"I am absolutely delighted that Chris will be involved in this evening’s match and his recovery gives everyone at Ulster Rugby a massive boost,” said Ulster head coach Neil Doak.
"He is a very popular member of the squad and he has worked extremely hard since his surgery to get back to full fitness. While he was cleared to play earlier in the week, we wanted to wait until today to confirm his involvement, so that he could be completely focused on his return to play."
“Wearing the Ulster jersey means a great deal to Chris and I know with what he has been through over the past four months that tonight will be extra special for him.
“I also know that the crowd will give him a huge reception if and when he takes to the pitch. For the coaches and players of Ulster Rugby, it is just great to have him back.”
It was already known that Henry, who suffered a mini-stroke on the morning he was due to win his 17th Ireland cap against South Africa last November, was close to a return but this was thought to be more likely for Ulster's next game on April 11 against Connacht in Galway.
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will make their already well-flagged returns tonight at out-half and inside centre respectively.
And even though only Jackson has played since both were injured at Toulon in January - and that was just 40 minutes for the Ravens last week - Doak will be hoping they can make an immediate impact in tonight's game in the push to make the play-offs.
The only other change from the Dragons reverse sees Louis Ludik at full-back with Craig Gilroy, the league's top try scorer, moving to the right wing and Rory Scholes heading benchward where Ian Humphreys now also resides.
ULSTER: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave (capt), S Olding, M Allen; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst; D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe; I Henderson, C Ross, N Williams.
Replacements: J Andrew, A Warwick, B Ross, R Diack, Henry, P Marshall, I Humphreys, R Scholes.