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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd Ruan Pienaar is in line for his first Ulster start.
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You've been Ruan-ed: Look who is back and ready to go for Ulster
The province has also signed up flanker Iain Henderson to a three-year professional contract.

THERE WAS A heartening sight for Ulster fans at Newforge Country Club this week as scrum-half Ruan Pienaar took a full part in training.

The South African, fresh back from six Test appearances in the Rugby Championship, is in line for his first appearance of the season on Friday – he could not have picked a better time.

The RaboDirect Pro12 leaders welcome French side Castres to Ravenhill and will be hoping to keep up the unbeaten run that has taken the league by storm.

Pienaar is included in an extended squad of 27 players, which will be pared down by coach Mark Anscombe by the time Ulster’s French opponents touch down in Belfast.

Neil McComb and Nigel Brady return to the panel after missing the 25-0 win over Connacht will in-form Nick Williams looks set to play despite a minor rib injury.

Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar is included for the first time this season having returned to Ulster following his time playing for South Africa in the Rugby Championship.

“He is responding well to treatment and a decision on his fitness will be made later in the week,” Ulster Rugby stated.

Prop Declan Fitzpatrick aggravated a medial ligament injury in training last week and remains unavailable for selection.

Tying up the flanker

Ulster have moved quickly to reward young flanker Iain Henderson by signing the Ireland Under-20 star to a full professional contract.

Henderson, who was called into the Ireland training squad by Declan Kidney last month, made his Pro12 debut against Connacht last season and has impressed this season in wins over Munster and Cardiff Blues.

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“I’ve learnt a great deal from the coaching staff and senior players here and I can’t wait to continue my development at Ravenhill,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition in the squad, particularly in the back row, but I want to try and get as many games as possible under my belt.”

Ulster Director of Rugby, David Humpreys, commented, “Iain is one of the brightest young players in Ireland, he has all the attributes required to be a top class forward and we are delighted to welcome him into the professional set up.” He added:

We are trying to build a team of home grown players which is capable of competing with and beating the best teams in Europe, and Iain epitomises what we are trying to achieve.

“His performance against Cardiff a couple of weeks ago underlined his massive potential, but also showed that he is able to play at this level now. The exciting thing for us is that he will only get better.”

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