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'We'll see if they're still great': Chris Henry and Andrew Trimble relish Ulster legends game this weekend

 

Special day: Chris Henry is still celebrating testimonial year
Special day: Chris Henry is still celebrating testimonial year
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster heroes of the recent and not so recent past will link up at Malone Rugby Club on Sunday and play a legends game as the headline act of the Rugby Rocks festival.

A part of recently retired Ulster and Ireland flanker Chris Henry's testimonial season, a large number of the squad that won the European Cup 20 years ago, including goal-kicking full-back Simon Mason, will all be pulling on the white jersey one more time, while Henry's former team-mates such as BJ Botha, Mike Ross and Paddy Wallace will also be taking part.

"It's part of my testimonial season, we've organised what's really a family fun day but the main event I suppose is an Ulster legends game," explained now Malone head coach Henry, speaking on this week's Ulster Rugby Round Up podcast.

"It's just a bunch of retired players togging out and having a bit of craic.

"We have some who were great players in their day playing, so we'll have to see if they're still great come Sunday."

As well as the main event, there will be games featuring an Ulster Ladies select and the Malone Tornadoes, while live music will follow on from the rugby.

"It's been great fun putting it all together," said Henry, who retired last year with 184 Ulster caps to his name. "It'll be great to see some old faces and then having a bit of fun out on the rugby pitch.

"There's a full day of activities planned and all the money raised goes to Chest, Heart and Stroke, so there's the making of a great day."

Andrew Trimble, who last week was equalled atop the province's all-time appearance chart by Darren Cave, will also be back in action, a little over a year on from the last of his pro appearances.

Having become the voice of Ulster Rugby on Premier Sport, as well as working on an exciting team-management app with Kairos, retirement has been busy for the 70-times-capped Ireland wing and he is looking forward to catching up with some old friends.

"I'm dreading it a bit," he joked regarding his return to the field.

"I've not been in the best of form. Playing tag last week, I had a pass thrown my way about a metre from the line that I managed to cough up. At least I'll be accustomed to the embarrassment by Sunday.

"There'll be a few boys that I may not have seen for years so it'll be nice to catch up and take that trip down memory lane."

The game will be refereed by Frank Murphy, the former Munster and Connacht man who now takes the whistle in the PRO14.

Gates open at 1pm with the legends game kicking off at 4.45pm.

You can buy tickets here.

Meanwhile, Pete Nelson, who will leave Ulster this summer, says it's been a dream come true to represent his home province.

"I'm very proud to have played as many times as I have," said the Dungannon man, who leaves Kingspan Stadium after 60 provincial caps. "Like a lot of us who were born here, it's been a dream of mine to have played for Ulster, and to have done it for as long as I have is massive. I'm very proud of that and my family are very proud of that.

"It's been a dream come true. Whenever you get your first cap, you're absolutely delighted, then you just want to play more and more. I'm really pleased to get 60 caps, starting out I never thought that I would get to that."

Indeed, Nelson would have played more if not for injury, the most serious of which kept him out for over a year in 2016.

"My first cap was special, making my debut against Leinster. And my first game back from injury after 14 months out was also massive for me," he said. "It look a long time and a lot of hard work and I've just enjoyed recently getting the opportunity to play.

"I've played in some brilliant matches and played with some unbelievable players over the years, so I have very fond memories."

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