Chris Henry will start his testimonial year in the pre-season friendly against Gloucester at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night.
The abrasive Irish flanker is celebrating his tenth season with Ulster and is the first player to be awarded the honour of a testimonial year in association with his chosen charity, Heart Chest and Stroke, and he can’t wait to get onto the pitch.
“It’s been talked about for quite a while so I’m just looking forward to playing, to be honest,” he said.
“Under strict orders from the girls in the charity I’ve my phone off and just focusing on rugby it’s really exciting, such good feedback from people.
“Fans and players just want to get stuck in and play, after a long pre-season, it builds up and you want to get back out.”
There will be a few special events to mark the start of Henry’s testimonial year.
He said: “Kingpsan very generously gave us the opportunity and we raffled off a mascot. Joy and Lewis, seven and eight year olds, won and they’ll get to lead the team out.
“Kukri donated jerseys for the game, so we’ll be able to raffle or auction them off at some stage and Boojum and Blue Hire have taken sponsorship in the ground as well.
“The supporters club are making cupcakes, so it’s amazing to see fans and people going above and beyond; there’s lots going on, my focus is very much on going out there, enjoying the match and getting stuck in.”
Even though he’s a veteran of pre season Henry is glad the sparring is over and he can get back into a match situation.
“It’s been an enjoyable pre-season but without doubt it’s been physically and mentally demanding. When the season starts you’ve a lot more time to recover, a lot more down time. So we’ve been put under pressure and stress.”