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Ulster star Marcell Coetzee is one of top three back-rowers I played with: Chris Henry

Marcell Coetzee is back in the Ulster starting line-up.
Marcell Coetzee is back in the Ulster starting line-up.
Chris Henry

By Chris Henry

The best three back-rowers I ever played alongside were Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Marcell Coetzee.

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What a trio that would have been for a forward pack!

That's why, for as much as you're taking a gamble on him staying fit, I think keeping Marcell at Kingspan for another three years is a great piece of business. It had looked to me, especially with the lure of the Springboks, that the big man was probably going to head home and he'll surely have had big offers from elsewhere too.

But I know he loves Northern Ireland and I'm sure there's a part of him that feels lucky with how the province treated him during his long-term injuries.

Last year he and Aaron Dundon were responsible for a lot of the training drills we did as back-row forwards and that intellectual property is huge.

If I was a young player now, I'd be looking to learn as much as I could from him in the next three seasons.

That deal meant it was a good week for Ulster's new CEO Jonny Petrie and I must say I've been impressed with him so far. It's great to see him out and about at clubs and schools and willing to front up on issues like falling attendances. It's something maybe Ulster have been guilty of in the past, hiding away from these things, but the new man seems open and honest to start off with.

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