European Champions Cup Ulster v Saracens: Iain Henderson's quick recovery a huge lift
Ulster have been handed a big boost ahead of tonight's titanic Champions Cup clash against Saracens with the news that star forward Iain Henderson is back in the starting line-up.
Revealed in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday that the 23-year-old was pushing for inclusion, it is still something of a surprise to see him in the starting line-up given that the World Cup stand-out underwent hand surgery just five weeks ago.
Named at his preferred position of blindside flanker, it was at lock where Henderson caught the eye for Ireland over the last number of months, putting in a destructive performance against Wales in a World Cup warm-up before repeating the feat against Canada and Italy during the tournament.
However, it was against Argentina in the quarter-final when a finger snagged in an opposition jersey resulted in surgery.
His speedy recovery for tonight's game is a huge bonus for Les Kiss as the Director of Rugby prepares for what is his first European game against the quality-laden champions of England.
Henderson's return is not the only change to the side named last week for the ultimately postponed trip to Oyonnax with Kiss bringing in another four players.
Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst return as Ulster's starting props either side of captain Rory Best with Kyle McCall and Ricky Lutton denied what would have been first European starts as they drop back down to the bench.
Louis Ludik has recovered from a nasty finger injury of his own to return to the full-back position while Stuart McCloskey, who will be the only Ulster player to start the first eight games, is in the centre.
Irish internationals Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy are retained on the wings while Darren Cave will be in the No.13 jersey alongside McCloskey in midfield.
The half-back pairing will, for the first time this season from the start, be World Cup participants Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar.
Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merwe are kept in the second-row while Nick Williams and Chris Henry make up the loose forward trio with Henderson.
Hooker Rob Herring, lock/flanker Robbie Diack, back-rower Roger Wilson and scrum-half Paul Marshall are all on the bench.
Ian Humphreys backs up Jackson at No.10 while Peter Nelson, who has impressed this season, offers backline cover.