Ulster Rugby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ulster Rugby
Ulster Rugby Logo
Nickname(s) The Ulstermen
Founded 1879; 139 years ago (1879)
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ground(s) Kingspan Stadium (Capacity: 18,196)
Chairman Shane Logan
Coach(es) Dan McFarland
Captain(s) Rory Best
Most caps Andrew Trimble (223)
Top scorer David Humphreys (1,585)
Most tries Andrew Trimble (77)
League(s) Pro14
2017–18 4th (Conf. B)
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website
Rugby Provincial Teams Ireland.svg

Ulster Rugby (Irish: Rugbaí Uladh) is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. They compete in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions Cup.

The team represents the IRFU Ulster Branch, which is one of the four primary branches of the IRFU and is responsible for rugby union throughout the geographical Irish province of Ulster, comprising Northern Ireland and three counties in the Republic of Ireland which are Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan.


Foundation (1868–1879)[edit]

A number of clubs were operating in Ulster prior to the foundation of the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Ulster branch. The Belfast-based North of Ireland, founded in 1868, was the earliest club to operate in the province. Clubs from this era still in existence include Dungannon and Queen's University. The first Irish inter-provincial game took place in 1875 between Ulster and Leinster, with Ulster being the victors.[1] In Ireland's first international match, which was played in 1875 against England, eight Ulster-based players took part. Rugby in Ulster at this time was mostly overseen by the Irish Football Union, with the Northern Football Union of Ireland controlling the game in Belfast. The two unions amalgamated in 1879, with the provincial branches of Ulster, Leinster and Munster being founded as part of the terms of this arrangement.[2] The final Irish provincial side, Connacht, was founded in 1885.[3]

Amateur era (1879–1995)[edit]

During the amateur era Irish players primarily played for their respective clubs, with provincial games effectively treated as Irish trial matches.[4] The provincial teams were also used to provide competitive club opposition for touring international sides. Inter-provincial games were played on an irregular basis but starting in the 1946–47 season, the provinces played against each other in the annual Irish Interprovincial Championship.[3] Ulster won this tournament 26 times in total, with eight of these titles being shared. The team's greatest period of success was in the 1980s and 1990s when they won ten titles in a row.[5][6][7]

Professional success (1999–2006)[edit]

In the 1998–99 season, Ulster became the first Irish province to win the Heineken Cup. They beat French side US Colomiers 21–6 in the final at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.[8]

From 2001 to 2004, the Ulster team was coached by Alan Solomons, a former Assistant Coach of the Springboks and head coach of The Stormers and Western Province in his native South Africa. It was during this time that Ulster fully embraced the professional era.

Alan Solomons coached Ulster to a three-year unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup.[citation needed] In the 2003–04 season, Ulster finished second in the Celtic League, only overtaken by Llanelli on the final day of the campaign. Two of Ulster's most impressive achievements in this period were a 33–0 win over English giants Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup in January 2004, and winning the inaugural Celtic Cup on 20 December 2003, beating Edinburgh in a rain-soaked Murrayfield final.

In July 2004, Solomons departed for Northampton Saints and Mark McCall, former captain of the province and a member of Ulster’s European Cup winning squad, took over as Ulster Rugby head coach with European Cup teammate Allen Clarke as his assistant. Despite an initially poor start to the season, the two extended Ulster's unbeaten home record in Europe to four years.[citation needed]

Ulster led the Celtic league for most of the 2005–06 season thanks to dominant forward play largely inspired by Australian import Justin Harrison, New Zealand-born Irish scrum-half Isaac Boss, and a rapid maturing of a youthful home-grown three-quarter line. However, inconsistent late form from Ulster, combined with a late run from Leinster, meant that either of those sides could take the title in the final game of the season. In Ulster's final match against the Ospreys with Ulster one point behind, David Humphreys kicked a 40-metre drop goal to clinch the game and the league for Ulster.

Decline (2006–2010)[edit]

Ulster started the 2006–07 season in fine form racking up a number of victories including a 30–3 thrashing of Heineken Cup contenders Toulouse. However, following an abject display losing 29–13 to London Irish, their season deteriorated with a number of poor performances, including several home defeats, leading to a fifth-place finish in the Celtic League and another early exit from Europe.

The team began the 2007–08 season with a terrible run of form. Mark McCall resigned in November following Ulster's embarrassing 32–14 home defeat to Gloucester in the opening round of the 2007–08 Heineken Cup.[9] Assistant coach Steve Williams took temporary charge of the team. Under Williams, Ulster had some initial success, however several defeats left them firmly rooted to the bottom of the Celtic League and out of Europe. In December, former Leinster and Scotland Head Coach Matt Williams was named Mark McCall's successor as Ulster's Head Coach. He took charge at the beginning of February 2008, but despite some improved performances, he failed to turn the season around, with Ulster finishing 9th in the 10 team Celtic League.

On 21 May 2009, Matt Williams resigned as Ulster's Head Coach after finishing 8th in the Celtic League that season.[10] He was replaced by Brian McLaughlin as Head Coach, with Jeremy Davidson and Neil Doak as his assistants, and former Ulster and Ireland outhalf David Humphreys taking on the role as Director of Rugby.[10]

The 2009–10 season brought many changes to Ulster, as they got new management staff, a newly improved Heineken Cup campaign including their first ever win in England against Bath Rugby, a new stand at Ravenhill, and new fans as more people started to support the team. But Ulster finished eighth place in the Celtic League again, due to a series of disappointing results in the league since Christmas.

Revival (2010–2014)[edit]

The 2010–11 season was even better for Ulster, as they signed key players including 2007 Rugby World Cup winning Springbok Ruan Pienaar. Ulster reached the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup for the first time since 1999 and finished third in the Celtic League.

The 2011–12 season brought even more success. Ulster beat Edinburgh to reach the Heineken Cup final for the first time in thirteen years.[11] In the final, Ulster lost 14–42 to Leinster at Twickenham Stadium. In the Pro12, Ulster finished sixth after a disappointing finish to the season. Brian McLaughlin did not have his contract renewed as Head Coach at the end of the season.

For the 2012–13 season, Mark Anscombe was appointed as the new head coach. Major signings included Nick Williams from the now defunct Aironi and Tommy Bowe returning from his four-year stay at the Ospreys. Ulster started the season with 13 consecutive wins in all competitions, making it the longest unbeaten run in their history.[citation needed] It started on 31 August 2012 as they defeated Glasgow Warriors 18–10 in the Pro12 and it ended on 15 December 2012 as they lost 9–10 to Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup. Despite finishing top of their Heineken Cup Group for the first time since the 1999 triumph, Ulster were defeated 27–16 by Saracens at the quarterfinal stage. Ulster finished top of the Pro12 table thereby giving them a home semi-final against the Scarlets. Ulster defeated the Scarlets 28–17 in the last match in front of the old grandstand before demolition. Due to the redevelopment of Ravenhill, Ulster played the Pro12 final at the RDS Arena in Dublin against Leinster losing 24–18.

The 2013–14 season proved trophyless again. For the first time, Ulster won all their Heineken Cup group games, with away victories against Montpellier and Leicester Tigers being the highlight. They were knocked out at the quarterfinal stage with a 17–15 home defeat to Saracens. The Pro12 season was racked with inconsistency and Ulster finished the league season in fourth place. This set up an away semi-final with Leinster, and for the fourth time in four seasons the season was ended by their old foes with a 13–9 defeat. The season ended with the retirements of captain Johann Muller, centre Paddy Wallace, and flanker Stephen Ferris. Director of Rugby David Humphreys also left the province to take up a similar position at Gloucester Rugby. Following Humphreys' departure, Mark Anscombe was sacked by the province and was replaced by Ireland defence coach Les Kiss on an interim basis.[12]


The 2014–15 season saw Rory Best return to the captaincy, a position that he first held from 2007 to 2011, after the retirement of the now ex-captain Johann Muller.[13] Ulster were knocked out of the new European Champions Cup at the group stage. They finished fourth in the Pro12 but lost in the playoff semifinal to Glasgow Warriors.

2015–16 saw Neil Doak promoted to Head Coach with Les Kiss returning to the province after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to take up the full-time Director of Rugby role with the province.[14] Ulster were knocked out of the Champions Cup at the group stage despite a memorable back to back win over Toulouse. They finished fourth in the Pro12 but again lost in the playoff semi final, this time to Leinster.

2016–17 was a disappointing season, finishing bottom of their Champions Cup group and finishing 5th in the Pro12. At the end of the season, all-time appearance holder Roger Wilson retired and Ruan Pienaar was controversially not awarded a new contract. Neil Doak and Allen Clarke also left the province being replaced by Jono Gibbes as Head Coach and Dwayne Peel as Assistant Coach.

Current standings[edit]


2018–19 Pro14 Table view · watch · edit · discuss
Conference A
1 Ireland Munster 1 1 0 0 38 0 +38 6 0 1 0 5
2 Italy Zebre 1 1 0 0 32 16 +16 4 1 1 0 5
3 Scotland Glasgow Warriors 1 1 0 0 27 26 +1 4 2 1 0 5
4 Wales Ospreys 1 1 0 0 17 13 +4 2 1 0 0 4
5 Wales Cardiff Blues 1 0 0 1 32 31 −1 4 4 1 1 2
6 Ireland Connacht 1 0 0 1 26 27 −1 2 4 0 1 1
7 South Africa Cheetahs 1 0 0 1 0 38 −38 0 6 0 0 0
Conference B
1 Ireland Leinster 1 1 0 0 33 32 +1 4 4 1 0 5
2 Italy Benetton 1 1 0 0 21 17 +4 3 2 0 0 4
3 Ireland Ulster 1 1 0 0 15 13 +2 0 1 0 0 4
4 Wales Scarlets 1 0 0 1 13 15 −2 1 0 0 1 1
5 Wales Dragons 1 0 0 1 17 21 −4 2 3 0 1 1
6 Scotland Edinburgh 1 0 0 1 13 17 −4 1 2 0 1 1
7 South Africa Southern Kings 1 0 0 1 16 32 −16 1 4 0 0 0
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order -[15]
  1. number of matches won
  2. the difference between points for and points against
  3. the number of tries scored
  4. the most points scored
  5. the difference between tries for and tries against
  6. the fewest red cards received
  7. the fewest yellow cards received

Green background indicates teams that compete in the Pro14 play-offs, and also earn a place in the 2019–20 European Champions Cup
(excluding South African teams who are ineligible)

Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places that earn a place in the 2019–20 European Champions Cup
Yellow background indicates the fourth-ranked eligible teams in each conference that play-off against each other for the seventh place in the 2019–20 European Champions Cup
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the 2019–20 European Rugby Challenge Cup.
(CH) Champions. (RU) Runners-up. (SF) Losing semi-finalists. (QF) Losing quarter-finalists. (PO) Champions Cup play-off winners.

European Rugby Champions Cup[edit]

Pool 4

Wales Scarlets 0 0 0 0 0 0 +0 0 0 0 0 0
France Racing 92 0 0 0 0 0 0 +0 0 0 0 0 0
England Leicester Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 –0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland Ulster 0 0 0 0 0 0 –0 0 0 0 0 0



The flag of the Province of Ulster

The current crest was introduced in 2003. The new, stylised crest is made specific to Ulster Rugby as it incorporates the red hand from the provincial flag of Ulster with two rugby balls.[16] The Ulster Rugby crest is on all official club merchandise including replica jerseys.


The Kingspan Stadium, known as Ravenhill Stadium until 2014, has been the home of Ulster Rugby since 1923.[citation needed] It has hosted two Rugby World Cup matches, several Ireland national team matches, the 2015 Pro12 Grand Final and many 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup matches, including the final.

The Premium Stand opened in 2009 and the rest of the stadium got redeveloped from 2012 to 2014. After the rest of the redevelopment was completed, the stadium was renamed the Kingspan Stadium.

Current squad[edit]

The Ulster senior squad for 2018–19 is:[17][a]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
John Andrew Hooker Ireland Ireland
Rory Best (c) Hooker Ireland Ireland
Rob Herring Hooker Ireland Ireland
Adam McBurney Hooker Ireland Ireland
Rodney Ah You Prop Ireland Ireland
Wiehahn Herbst* Prop South Africa South Africa
Ross Kane Prop Ireland Ireland
Kyle McCall Prop Ireland Ireland
Marty Moore Prop Ireland Ireland
Tommy O'Hagan Prop Ireland Ireland
Tom O'Toole [a] Prop Ireland Ireland
Schalk van der Merwe Prop South Africa South Africa
Andrew Warwick Prop Ireland Ireland
Peter Browne* Lock England England
Iain Henderson Lock Ireland Ireland
Alan O'Connor Lock Ireland Ireland
Alex Thompson Lock Ireland Ireland
Kieran Treadwell Lock Ireland Ireland
Marcell Coetzee Flanker South Africa South Africa
Jean Deysel Flanker South Africa South Africa
Chris Henry Flanker Ireland Ireland
Caleb Montgomery Flanker Ireland Ireland
Sean Reidy Flanker Ireland Ireland
Clive Ross Flanker Ireland Ireland
Nick Timoney Flanker Ireland Ireland
Greg Jones Number 8 Ireland Ireland
Jordi Murphy Number 8 Ireland Ireland
Matthew Rea Number 8 Ireland Ireland
Player Position Union
John Cooney Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
David Shanahan Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Johnny Stewart Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Billy Burns* Fly-half England England
Angus Curtis [a] Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Johnny McPhillips Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Will Addison* Centre England England
Darren Cave Centre Ireland Ireland
Luke Marshall Centre Ireland Ireland
Stuart McCloskey Centre Ireland Ireland
David Busby Wing Ireland Ireland
Craig Gilroy Wing Ireland Ireland
Rob Lyttle Wing Ireland Ireland
Jack Owens Wing Ireland Ireland
Henry Speight Wing Australia Australia
Jacob Stockdale Wing Ireland Ireland
Louis Ludik* Fullback South Africa South Africa
Peter Nelson Fullback Ireland Ireland
  • Internationally capped players in bold
  • Players qualified to play for Ireland on dual nationality or residency grounds*
  • Irish Provinces are currently limited to four non-Irish eligible (NIE) players and one non-Irish qualified player (NIQ or "Project Player").[19]

Academy squad[edit]

The Ulster academy squad for 2018–19 is:[18]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Zack McCall (year 3) Hooker Ireland Ireland
Eric O'Sullivan (year 2) Prop Ireland Ireland
Tom O'Toole (year 2) Prop Ireland Ireland
Matthew Dalton (year 2) Lock Ireland Ireland
Jack Regan (year 2) Lock Ireland Ireland
Matthew Agnew (year 1) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Azur Allison (year 1) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Joe Dunleavy (year 2) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Aaron Hall (year 3) Flanker Ireland Ireland
David McCann (year 1) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Marcus Rea (year 3) Flanker Ireland Ireland
Player Position Union
Graham Curtis (year 2) Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Angus Curtis (year 3) Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Bruce Houston (year 1) Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Michael Lowry (year 2) Fly-half Ireland Ireland
James Hume (year 2) Centre Ireland Ireland
Stewart Moore (year 1) Centre Ireland Ireland
Robert Baloucoune (year 2) Wing Ireland Ireland
Iwan Hughes (year 1) Wing Ireland Ireland
Angus Kernohan (year 1) Wing Ireland Ireland
  • Notes:
  1. ^ a b c Angus Curtis and Tom O'Toole are listed on both the senior squad[17] and academy squad page.[18]


Position Name Nationality
Operations Director Bryn Cunningham  Ireland
Head Coach Dan McFarland  England
Assistant Coach Dwayne Peel  Wales
Defence Coach Jared Payne  Ireland
Scrum Coach Aaron Dundon  New Zealand
Skills Coach Dan Soper  New Zealand
Strength & Conditioning Coach Kevin Geary  Ireland

Records against Pro14 and European Cup opponents[edit]

Against Played Won Drawn Lost % Won
Italy Aironi 8 7 0 1 87.50%
France Clermont Auvergne 4 2 0 2 50.00%
England Bath 4 4 0 0 100.00%
France Biarritz 6 2 0 4 33.33%
France Bordeaux 2 0 0 2 00.00%
Scotland Border Reivers 8 8 0 0 100.00%
France Bourgoin 2 1 0 1 50.00%
Wales Bridgend 1 1 0 0 100.00%
Wales Caerphilly 1 1 0 0 100.00%
Wales Cardiff Blues 32 18 1 13 56.25%
France Castres 2 2 0 0 100.00%
Wales Celtic Warriors 2 2 0 0 100.00%
South Africa Cheetahs 1 1 0 0 100.00%
Ireland Connacht 32 25 1 6 78.13%
Wales Dragons 32 19 2 11 59.38%
Wales Ebbw Vale RFC 2 2 0 0 100.00%
Scotland Edinburgh 33 22 0 11 66.67%
England Exeter Chiefs 2 1 0 1 50.00%
Scotland Glasgow Warriors 34 20 1 13 58.82%
England Gloucester 4 1 0 3 25.00%
England Harlequins 4 3 0 1 75.00%
France La Rochelle 2 1 0 1 50.00%
England Leicester Tigers 8 5 0 3 62.50%
Ireland Leinster 38 7 3 28 18.42%
England London Irish 2 1 0 1 50.00%
France Montpellier 2 2 0 0 50.00%
Ireland Munster 32 15 1 16 46.88%
Wales Neath RFC 2 2 0 0 100.00%
England Northampton Saints 3 1 0 2 33.33%
Wales Ospreys 31 13 0 18 41.94%
France Oyonnax 2 2 0 0 100.00%
Wales Pontypridd 1 1 0 0 100.00%
England Saracens 6 1 0 5 16.67%
Wales Scarlets 38 19 3 16 50.00%
France Stade Français 10 4 0 6 40.00%
South Africa Southern Kings 1 1 0 0 100.00%
Wales Swansea RFC 3 2 0 1 66.67%
France Toulon 2 0 0 2 0.00%
France Toulouse 4 3 0 1 75.00%
Italy Benetton 21 19 1 1 90.48%
England Wasps 2 1 0 1 50.00%
Italy Zebre 11 9 0 2 81.82%
Total 437 251 13 173 57.44%

Correct as of 21 January 2018.

Player records and statistics[edit]

European Rugby Champions Cup[edit]

Category Player Totals Years
Tries Andrew Trimble 27 2005–2018
Appearances Andrew Trimble 71 2005–2018
Points David Humphreys 564 1998–2008

(correct as of 20 May 2018)


Category Player Totals Years
Tries Tommy Bowe 49 2003–2008; 2012–2018
Appearances Roger Wilson 180 2003–2008; 2012–2017
Points David Humphreys 786 1998–2008
Pens & Cons David Humphreys 272 1998–2008

(correct as of 20 May 2018)

British and Irish Lions[edit]

The following Ulster players, in addition to representing Ireland, have also represented the British and Irish Lions.[20]

  • Bold indicates player was tour captain for the year in question

Note: Phillip Matthews played for the Lions in their victory against France in Paris. The game formed part of the celebrations of the bi-centennial of the French Revolution, but did not count as a "formal" Lions international.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter, Richard. The Origins and Development of Football in Ireland. Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation. p. 6. ISBN 0-901905-93-3. 
  2. ^ "History of the Irish Rugby Football Union". Irish Rugby. Retrieved 22 April 2018. 
  3. ^ a b "Connacht Rugby". Galway Advertiser. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2018. 
  4. ^ "Ray McLoughlin - Connacht Rugby Legend". Connacht Rugby Supporters. 25 March 2006. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  5. ^ "Irish Rugby 1874–1999 — A History: INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS page 442". Irish Rugby. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  6. ^ "Irish Rugby 1874–1999 — A History: INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS page 443". Irish Rugby. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  7. ^ "Irish Rugby 1874–1999 — A History: INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS page 444". Irish Rugby. Retrieved 7 January 2018. 
  8. ^ "Rugby Union: European Cup final - Ulster take a red-carpet ride". The Independent. 31 January 1999. Retrieved 22 April 2018. 
  9. ^ "Ulster coach quits". Sky Sports. 13 November 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "Williams leaves Ulster". Sky Sports. 21 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "London now calling for Ulster". Irish Times. 29 April 2012. 
  12. ^ http://ulsterrugby.com/News/LatestNews/TabId/149/ArtMID/793/ArticleID/1604/Ulster-Rugby-Update.aspx
  13. ^ "Rory Best relishing return to Ulster captaincy". Irish times. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Neil Doak named Ulster coach with Les Kiss to return after World Cup". Irish times. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro14. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  16. ^ http://www.ulsterrugby.com/news/6878.php
  17. ^ a b "Ulster First Team". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 31 August 2018. 
  18. ^ a b "Academy Squad". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 3 August 2018. 
  19. ^ "Not all rules are made to be broken". Irish Independent. 4 September 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2018. Ireland's set-up demands a maximum of five NIEs - one of whom is a project player 
  20. ^ Cronin, Ciaran (2007). The Ireland Rugby Miscellany. 

External links[edit]