Pro 12: Ulster Rugby Season Preview

Interim Head Coach/Director of Rugby: Les Kiss
Captain: Rory Best
Position 2013/2014: 4th
Stadium: Kingspan Stadium:

 

Ulster Rugby Season Preview

It is difficult to have a clear idea where Ulster are going into the new Guinness Pro 12 season. The departure of David Humphreys as Director of Rugby sent shockwaves throughout the province and indeed world rugby. Following Humphreys’ exit, Head Coach Mark Anscombe soon followed and Ulster were in complete disarray.

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss has come on board on an interim basis and will be assisted by Jonny Bell and Neil Doak. This is seen as a stability measure but if Kiss does a good job, one would imagine both parties would be interested in a more long term arrangement.

It has also been an interesting summer with regard to playing staff. Ulster fans will be heartbroken to have seen the retirements of Johann Muller and Stephen Ferris as well as the departures of John Afoa and Tom Court.

The loss of these players in the pack will be quite significant as Ulster, when on top form, had the ability to gain the upper hand in any game through their forwards. Muller’s influence on the game will be extremely hard to replicate.

Despite the summer turmoil, there have been very positive noises coming out of the Ulster camp. Rory Best has taken over from Muller as captain and his wealth of experience will have be vital in bringing on a talented group of young players.

It is a big season for the likes of Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson. Both players are in with a great chance of pushing for starting places for Ireland at the World Cup but that will all depend on how they perform for their province this season.

Ulster have some outstanding talent coming through their academy. Expect Stuart McCloskey, Stuart Olding, Michael Allen, Rory Scholes and Ricky Andrew to push more established players in their back division all through the season.

Tommy Bowe is finally back to full fitness and we could see him playing more in the outside centre position if Irish Coach Joe Schmidt sees him as a viable option to replace Brian O’Driscoll.

Either way it would be a fantastic sight to see Bowe have an injury free season. Any team with a player of Bowe’s ilk in it, has a chance of winning games.

Players In:

Ruaidhrí Murphy (Prop) from Brumbies
Wiehahn Herbst (Prop) from Sharks
Dave Ryan (Prop) from Zebre
Franco van der Merwe (Second Row) from Lions
Charlie Butterworth (Back Row) from Lansdowne
Sean Reidy (Back Row) from Counties Manukau (New Zealand)
Ian Humphreys (Out Half) from London Irish
Louis Ludik (Full Back) from SU Agen

Players Out:

Tom Court (Prop) to London Irish
John Afoa (Prop) to Gloucester Rugby
Adam Macklin (Prop) to Rotherham Titans
Paddy McAllister (Prop) to Aurillac
Niall Annett (Hooker) to Worcester Warriors
Sean Doyle (Back Row) to Brumbies
Ian Porter (Scrum Half) to Connacht
James McKinney (Out Half) to Rotherham Titans
Chris Farrell (Centre) to FC Grenoble
David McIlwaine (Full Back/Wing) to Leeds Carnegie
Paddy Wallace Retired
Johann Muller Retired
Chris Cochrane Retired
Stephen Ferris Retired

 

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