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You can't keep a good player like Ulster's Chris Henry down

Our Chris can't wait to get back

By Jonathan Bradley

It was all smiles at the Kingspan Stadium yesterday as Ulster's Chris Henry sensationally returned to the gym just one week on from heart surgery.

An image of the beaming 30-year-old back in training was posted on Twitter by his long-time team-mate Darren Cave, while the man himself later took to the social media site to share a further photograph.

Underneath the picture of the Malone man on an exercise bike at the Kingspan Stadium's gym, Cave, who has been a regular for Ulster since before Henry made his debut at the start of 2009, wrote: "You can't keep a good man down this guy loves it... @chrishenry678," before later joking that the openside flanker was preparing for the Tour de France.

With a host of retweets and favourites, the news clearly proved popular among fans of both Ulster and rugby in general while, a number of hours later, Henry then posted on his own account.

While also re-tweeting Rory Best's reflections on the sad passing of Ulster and Ireland legend Jack Kyle last week, Henry posted a picture of his view from the exercise bike that included team-mates such as Lewis Stevenson lifting weights below.

Underneath, he wrote: "First day back at Kingspan & great to c all the lads! Also never happier to c a bike! Day 1 of #injuredclub."

It was the first time the 16-times-capped Ireland international has posted to his 21,100 Twitter followers since thanking well-wishers for all the messages of support on November 18.

Having pulled out of the Ireland side to face South Africa on the morning of the November 8 Test following what was then described as an "episode", it was later confirmed that Henry had suffered a "temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain" before details of a possible heart defect were then revealed.

The Ireland national medical team, in conjunction with their Ulster Rugby counterparts, released a short statement last Tuesday that confirmed Henry's troubles were in fact caused by a heart problem and that surgery had been required.

It read: "Chris is recovering from a procedure yesterday (Nov 24) to repair a defect in his heart wall.

"This was found to be related to his recent episode and has been performed to prevent further issues."

Ulster were yesterday said to be pleased by what was described as very successful surgery and the next step on Henry's road to recovery will be training with team-mates, although it is not yet known when this can occur.

Last week, Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham said: "He is a massive favourite here at the Kingspan Stadium and the crowd will all want to see him back but only on the basis that the medical staff are absolutely, 100% confident that he is fully fit.

"The nature of the game nowadays is very, very physical, the demands are huge.

"You cannot come back if you're only 70-75% fit, you have to come back fully fit."

Confirming his understanding, however, that we should see Henry back in the white of his native province, he concluded: "What we're concerned about is that he makes a full recovery.

"We're quite confident, judging from the feedback we've had, that will be the case and that hopefully he'll make a return to the hallowed turf here (the Kingspan Stadium)."

Ulster's soon-to-be Director of Rugby Les Kiss, who has worked with Henry in both his role as Ireland's defence coach and during his initial temporary spell at the Kingspan Stadium, also spoke confidently last week regarding the chances of the popular figure being able to resume his professional career.

When asked if we would see Henry back at the highest level, he replied: "I think it's a when.

"I had a text from Chris reporting back that he felt really great. The procedure went well.

"Nothing has been given a clear timeline. It's about getting him well and healthy in the next few weeks and then assess him.

"I think the key thing at the moment is that he is in recovery.

"The procedure has been done and that shouldn't give him any further issues.

"The big thing now for Chris is just get into a position where he is well and healthy again and then consider when he returns to play."

Yesterday's images of a happy and healthy looking Henry will have rugby fans optimistic that it may be sooner than they had even dared hope.

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