12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
"There's a saying in French which translates, 'The more things change, the more things stay the same'.
At Ulster Rugby some things are changing and moving on - a new season with new opportunities in a newly-developed Ravenhill.
But some things never change. Like the family bond between club and community which grows ever stronger and which sees us, like any family, stand together, celebrating triumph and drawing together in adversity.
Ulster Rugby has known no greater adversity than in the loss of Nevin Spence. This Sunday marks the first anniversary of that tragic spiral of events which resulted in the shocking deaths of Nevin, his father Noel and his brother Graham
This unspeakable loss struck a blow not only at the heart of the Ulster Rugby family, but also to the heart of the whole community in this island and beyond.
Much has changed in the intervening year, but some things will never change. The impact made by these three fine men, both in life and in death, continues to be felt.
At the Memorial Service at Ravenhill, Rory Best concluded his fitting tribute to Nevin by saying: "His memory will continue to shape Ulster Rugby for years to come. Nev, we will miss you, but we will never forget you."
And the memories of Nevin do live on - of Nevin the player - his dancing feet, his incredible strength, his lion-hearted courage, his pride in the white shirt - and memories of Nevin the person - his radiant smile, his shock of blond hair, his quirky sense of humour, his unassuming, humble demeanour and his quiet but vibrant Christian faith.
The sense of loss and the precious memories persist and Ulster Rugby WILL keep those memories alive, not least through the new Education and Heritage Centre at Ravenhill which will bear Nevin's name - a place where Nevin's values WILL help shape the succeeding generations of Ulster players and supporters alike. Some things WILL never change.
Ulster Rugby's loss is huge, but it is miniscule when set beside that of the Spence family. Our sympathy for them doesn't change either; nor does the massive respect that we have for them for the way in which they have faced this tragedy with courage, dignity and faith.
Please take time over these next days to hold them up once again in your thoughts and prayers.
And whatever else changes, their God and Nevin's God doesn't change. His love, His presence, His comfort are the constants in a world of change.
These three Spence men, above anything else, lived their lives for God and they met their deaths in God - faith in Jesus alone prepared them to enter into a reward in heaven that will never change or fade away.
It is that truth which gives hope to cut through the pain of this loss - it is that hope which sustains Nevin's family and friends - and it can be your hope too, however dark or desperate your circumstances might be today.
The more things change, the more our God and His firm and faithful love stay the same.
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