Ireland hooker Rory Best has heaped praise on the Ulster medical staff following his unlikely RBS 6 Nations return.
The 27-year-old, who underwent surgery in the summer to correct a chronic disk injury in his neck, was thought to be out for the whole season.
But, following a rapid recovery, the Ulster skipper turned out for the Ireland A team in January and was called up to join Declan Kidney’s Six Nations side.
And Best insists he wouldn’t be back in an Irish shirt without the Ravenhill medics.
He said: "They helped me to build up my fitness again gradually and made sure that the shoulder was capable of withstanding the necessary pressure before I played any games. They were all fantastic, gave up a lot of their time and I owe a lot to them.
"I always hoped to return before the end of this season but you always like to give yourself a little more time in case things don't go 100 per cent to plan.
"My goal was to perhaps be involved before the end of the Six Nations, so it is great to have been able to come on as a replacement in the opening two games against Italy and France.
"When I had the surgery I realised that I had come close to never playing again, but then you start to take the positives from the situation.
"The whole recovery period was physically challenging, but also mentally challenging, and I have had to work hard to get my strength back."