Rory Best returns for Ulster Rugby ... and Stephen Ferris gets a new contract
Rory Best comes roaring back for Ulster in tonight's crucial Heineken Cup date with Montepellier at Ravenhill (8pm).
The rugged 31-year-old continues to defy medical convention, returning to the middle of the front row just seven weeks after he broke his right forearm while playing for Ireland against New Zealand.
At the time it was feared Ireland's most capped hooker would struggle to be back in time for the Six Nations opener against Scotland in Dublin on February 2.
But he's back ahead of time – and looking forward to pulling on an Ulster shirt again.
"It's a testament to the medical team that we have here – Michael Eames the surgeon and the strength and conditioning coaches at Ulster – that I am back so soon," said Best.
"I have been fortunate that there have been no set-backs along the way, so it has just been a case of trying to push on and thankfully I have come through."
And there was more good news for Ulster supporters yesterday with Stephen Ferris and Declan Fitzpatrick signing new contracts.
Ferris, who has been sidelined since November 2012 by a persistent ankle injury, has agreed a short-term deal which will see him continue his long-term rehabilitation at Ravenhill.
The fact that it was offered at all is proof of the progress he has made of late in his fight to overcome an injury which had threatened to end his career.
Ulster's Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, said: "Stephen has shown remarkable drive and determination over the past year as he has worked to overcome the injury that has kept him out for so long.
"We are committed to helping him in every way possible and his new contract extension will mean that he will continue to have the best medical, physiotherapy and strength and conditioning teams around him, to help his recovery."
Fitzpatrick has signed a two-year Irish contract that will keep him at Ulster until at least the summer of 2016.
Capped seven times by Ireland, the tighthead prop has made 83 appearances for Ulster.
He said: "I am delighted to be staying at Ulster for a further two years. Both my family and I love living in Belfast so it is great to have our long-term future sorted out."
The return of Rory Best – and skipper Johann Muller – at two and four respectively tonight sees Rob Herring and Iain Henderson drop to the bench.
It also means Ulster are able to deploy all five of their first-choice tight forwards.