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Published: 21:46 | 28/1/16

Henry feared end of career

Ulster and Ireland flanker Chris Henry says he feared he would never play rugby again following a heart scare.

Henry was taken to hospital the night before the November 2014 international against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium with what doctors initially thought was a severe migraine.

Tests at St. Vincent's hospital in Dublin subsequently revealed a hole in his heart had caused a mini-stroke, but the 31-year-old recovered to make the Ireland's 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.

Henry admitted, however, that he suffered some dark days after he received the initial diagnosis.

"I thought that for a stage of about 10 days, where I didn't know what was happening, and I was preparing for the worst," he said.

"I was getting my affairs in order and starting to think what was I going to do and how much breathing space I'd have before I had to get back into study or go and find a job.

"I was constantly thinking of these things.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. Luckily for me I was able to get through it and I'm very fortunate to be back out playing."

In other Ulster news, Franco van der Merwe has signed a one-year extension to his contract at the Kingspan Stadium.

Former Lions and Sharks lock Van der Merwe, 33, started 26 of Ulster's 30 games last season and 15 of Ulster's 17 matches this campaign.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here and it was an easy decision for me and my family to take," he said.

"This season has been a bit of a transition with Les (Kiss) coming in, but I'm really excited to be part of the squad's growth over the next 18 months," he said.

Ulster's Director of Rugby Les Kiss said: "To have Franco stay is a fantastic boost. He is an excellent club man who contributes in such a positive way.

"His durability is outstanding and his lineout expertise speaks for itself."

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