Ulster Rugby

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Ulster Rugby
Ulster Rugby Logo
Nickname(s) The Ulstermen
Founded 1879; 136 years ago (1879)
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ground(s) Ravenhill (Capacity: 18,196)
Chairman Shane Logan
Coach(es) Neil Doak
Captain(s) Rory Best
Most caps Paddy Wallace (189)
Top scorer David Humphreys (1,350)
Most tries Andrew Trimble (64)
League(s) Pro12
2013–14 4th (playoff semi-finalist)
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website
Rugby Provincial Teams Ireland.svg

Ulster Rugby (Irish: Rugbaí Ulaidh) is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland. They compete in the Pro12 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 six counties in Northern Ireland and three in the Republic of Ireland.

Ulster play their home games at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast which has a capacity of 18,196. The province plays primarily in white and the team crest features a red hand within two rugby balls, the red hand being taken from the provincial flag of Ulster.

Ulster turned professional along with its fellow Irish provinces in 1995 and has competed in the Pro12 since it was founded in 2001, having previously competed in the annual interprovincial championship.[1] The province's second tier team, the Ulster Ravens compete in the semi-professional British and Irish Cup. Ulster won the Heineken Cup in 1999, the Celtic Cup in 2003 and the Celtic League in 2006.


The Ulster Branch of the IRFU was founded in 1879. Since then, Ulster has been arguably the most successful of the four Irish provinces (the others are Connacht, Leinster and Munster) having won the Inter-Provincial Championship a record 26 times as well as being the first Irish side to win the European Cup, which they won in 1999 against French side US Colomiers at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. (now the Aviva stadium)

In the amateur rugby union era, Ulster regularly played international touring sides from the southern hemisphere. Their most impressive performance was in the 1984/5 season when they defeated Andrew Slack's "Grand Slam" Wallabies.

Professional Era[edit]

In the 1998–99 season, Ulster became the first Irish province to win the Heineken Cup. They beat Colomiers in the final at Lansdowne Road (predecessor and still common name for the recently built Aviva Stadium) 21–6. The Ulster squad contained many part-time players two of whom, Andy Matchett and Stephen McKinty, started the final. This Ulster side was coached by Harry Williams and managed by John Kinnear.

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 and 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.

In the 2005-06 season, Ulster led the Celtic league for most of the 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. With four minutes to go 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.

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 5th 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[3]

A new era[edit]

The 2009-10 season was the beginning of a new era for Ulster, as they got new management staff, a newly improved Heineken Cup campaign including their first ever win on English soil against Bath Rugby, a brand new stand at Ravenhill and more people started to follow the team. But Ulster finished 8th place in the Celtic League again, due to a series of disappointing results in the league since Christmas.

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 in Dublin to reach the Heineken Cup final for the first time in thirteen years.[4] In the final, Ulster lost 14-42 to Leinster at Twickenham Stadium. In the RaboDirect Pro12, Ulster finished 6th 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 4 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. It started on 31 August 2012 as they defeated Glasgow Warriors 18-10 in the RaboDirect 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 Quarter-Final 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 memorable away victories against Montpellier and Leicester Tigers being the highlight. They were knocked out at the quarter final stage with a 17-15 home defeat to Saracens despite a controversial red card early on to Jared Payne. The Pro12 season was racked with inconsistency and Ulster finished the league season in 4th place. This set up an away semi-final with Leinster and for the 4th time in 4 seasons the season was ended by their old foes with a 13-9 defeat. The season ended with the retirements of captain Johann Muller, record appearance holder Paddy Wallace and legendary 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.[5]

The 2014-15 season sees 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.[6] It was announced in October 2014 that Neil Doak would be promoted to Head Coach and that Les Kiss would return to the province after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to take up the full time Director of Rugby role with the province.[7]

Ulster Ravens[edit]

Ulster Ravens is the team that represents Ulster in the British & Irish Cup and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship.[8] Pre-professionalism and a formal Celtic league structure, the main Ulster team competed in the AIPC. Since the advent of professionalism the provinces have fielded lesser teams in order to concentrate on the Celtic League and Heineken Cup. The team is composed of Senior Ulster squad players requiring gametime, Academy players and AIL players called up from their clubs.[9]

Kingspan Stadium[edit]

Main article: Kingspan Stadium

The Kingspan Stadium, known as Ravenhill Stadium until 2014, has been the home of Ulster Rugby since 1923. It has hosted two Rugby World Cup matches and several Ireland national team matches. The first redevelopment of the stadium was finished in 2009 with the opening of the New Stand. Due to the increased support of the team in recent years, the redeveloping continued in the stadium. Two new stands have been built at the Aquinas and Memorial ends of the ground. The old grandstand got demolished in order for a new, modern stand to be built, which saw its first use in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens on Saturday, 5 April 2014. The reconstruction increased the capacity of Ravenhill from around 12,000 to 18,196. The stadium is now capable of hosting European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals and Pro12 finals.[10] The new Aquinas Stand will also house the new training centre for the Ulster Rugby team. The reconstruction of Ravenhill was completed in early 2014 and the stadium was officially opened in May 2014 at a RaboDirect Pro12 match against Leinster.[11]

Current standings[edit]

Pro12 Table watch · edit · discuss
Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points For Points Against Points Difference Tries For Tries Against Try Bonus Losing Bonus Points
1 Scotland Glasgow Warriors 18 13 1 4 431 299 +132 48 27 6 0 60
2 Ireland Ulster 18 12 1 5 438 287 +151 49 26 5 3 58
3 Ireland Munster 18 12 1 5 444 295 +149 50 22 5 3 58
4 Wales Ospreys 18 12 1 5 437 292 +145 40 24 4 2 56
5 Ireland Leinster 18 9 3 6 405 301 +104 44 31 7 3 52
6 Ireland Connacht 18 9 1 8 354 327 +27 38 34 2 3 43
7 Scotland Edinburgh 18 9 1 8 331 330 +1 33 37 2 3 43
8 Wales Scarlets 18 7 3 8 362 333 +29 33 34 3 3 40
9 Wales Newport Gwent Dragons 18 6 0 12 312 378 −66 28 39 2 6 32
10 Wales Cardiff Blues 18 6 1 11 355 457 −102 37 46 2 2 30
11 Italy Benetton Treviso 18 3 1 14 261 551 −290 28 70 2 2 18
12 Italy Zebre 18 3 0 15 225 505 −280 23 61 0 2 14

If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:[12]

  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 number of red cards received;
  7. the fewest number of yellow cards received.

Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places, and earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places, that earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup. The top team from each country will qualify.
Yellow background indicates the team that advances to a play-off semi-final against the seventh placed side from the Aviva Premiership, or the 2014–15 European Rugby Challenge Cup winners if they have not already qualified for the competition.[13]
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.


Colours and crest[edit]

The current crest was introduced in 2003. The new, stylised crest is made specific to Ulster Rugby as it incorporates the red hand with two rugby balls.[14] The Ulster Rugby crest is on all official club merchandise including replica jerseys.

Ulster's home kit is primarily white.

Current squad[edit]

For player movements leading up to the 2015–16 season, see List of 2015–16 Pro12 transfers#Ulster.

2014-15 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
Rory Best (c) Hooker Ireland Ireland
Rob Herring Hooker Ireland Ireland
Callum Black Prop Ireland Ireland
Declan Fitzpatrick Prop Ireland Ireland
Wiehahn Herbst Prop South Africa South Africa
Ricky Lutton Prop Ireland Ireland
Ruaidhrí Murphy Prop Ireland Ireland
Bronson Ross* Prop New Zealand New Zealand
Dave Ryan Prop Ireland Ireland
Andrew Warwick Prop Ireland Ireland
Iain Henderson Lock Ireland Ireland
Neil McComb Lock Ireland Ireland
James Simpson Lock Ireland Ireland
Lewis Stevenson Lock Ireland Ireland
Dan Tuohy Lock Ireland Ireland
Franco van der Merwe Lock South Africa South Africa
Tim Boys Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
Charlie Butterworth Flanker Ireland Ireland
Robbie Diack Flanker Ireland Ireland
Chris Henry Flanker Ireland Ireland
Conor Joyce Flanker Ireland Ireland
Mike McComish Flanker Ireland Ireland
Sean Reidy* Flanker New Zealand New Zealand
Clive Ross Flanker Ireland Ireland
Nick Williams Number 8 New Zealand New Zealand
Roger Wilson Number 8 Ireland Ireland
Player Position Union
Michael Heaney Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Paul Marshall Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Ruan Pienaar Scrum-half South Africa South Africa
Ian Humphreys Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Paddy Jackson Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Michael Stanley Fly-half Samoa Samoa
Darren Cave Centre Ireland Ireland
Luke Marshall Centre Ireland Ireland
Stuart McCloskey Centre Ireland Ireland
Stuart Olding Centre Ireland Ireland
Michael Allen Wing Ireland Ireland
Tommy Bowe Wing Ireland Ireland
Craig Gilroy Wing Ireland Ireland
Rory Scholes Wing Ireland Ireland
Andrew Trimble Wing Ireland Ireland
Ricky Andrew Fullback Ireland Ireland
Louis Ludik Fullback South Africa South Africa
Peter Nelson Fullback Ireland Ireland
Jared Payne Fullback Ireland Ireland
  • Internationally capped players in bold
  • Players qualified to play for Ireland on residency or dual nationality *

Academy squad[edit]

The Ulster Academy squad:[15]

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 year 2
Paul Jackson Hooker Ireland Ireland year 1
Jonny Murphy Hooker Ireland Ireland year 4
Michael Lagan Prop Ireland Ireland year 1
Craig Trenier Prop Ireland Ireland year 1
John Donnan Lock Ireland Ireland year 2
Alan O'Connor Lock Ireland Ireland year 3
Alex Thompson Lock Ireland Ireland year 1
Josh Atkinson Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
Lorcan Dow Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
Frankie Taggart Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
Player Position Union
David Shanahan Scrum-half Ireland Ireland year 2
Conor Young Scrum-half Ireland Ireland year 1
Sean O'Hagan Fly-half Ireland Ireland year 1
Sam Arnold Centre Ireland Ireland year 1
Jacob Stockdale Centre Ireland Ireland year 1
Jack Owens Wing Ireland Ireland year 1
David Busby Fullback Ireland Ireland year 1


Position Name Nationality
Head Coach Neil Doak  Ireland
Forwards Coach Allen Clarke  Ireland
Defence Coach Jonny Bell  Ireland
Head of Strength & Conditioning Jonny Davis  Ireland
Strength & Conditioning Coach Kevin Geary  Ireland
Head of Physiotherapy Gareth Robinson  Ireland
Physiotherapist Alan McAldin  Ireland

Player records and statistics[edit]

Rugby Champions Cup[edit]

Category Player Totals Years
Tries Ireland Andrew Trimble 22 2005–present
Points Ireland David Humphreys 564 1998 - 2008
Appearances Ireland David Humphreys 57 1998 - 2008

(correct as of 18 October 2014)


Category Player Totals Years
Tries Ireland Andrew Trimble 42 2005–present
Points Ireland David Humphreys 786 1998 - 2008
Pens & Cons Ireland David Humphreys 272 1998 - 2008
Appearances Ireland Paddy Wallace 131 2001 - 2014

(correct as of 11 October 2014)

British and Irish Lions[edit]

The following Ulster players, in addition to representing Ireland, have also represented the British and Irish Lions.[16]

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. Robin Thompson and Willie John McBride both captained the Lions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Irish Interprovincial rugby championship BBC Sport, 1 September 2000
  2. ^ "Ulster coach quits". Sky Sports. 13 November 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Williams leaves Ulster". Sky Sports. 21 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "London now calling for Ulster". Irish Times. 29 April 2012. 
  5. ^ http://ulsterrugby.com/News/LatestNews/TabId/149/ArtMID/793/ArticleID/1604/Ulster-Rugby-Update.aspx
  6. ^ "Rory Best relishing return to Ulster captaincy". Irish times. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Neil Doak named Ulster coach with Les Kiss to return after World Cup". Irish times. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Fixtures and Results : Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  10. ^ RaboDirecct Pro12, Competition Rules, Season 2012–13, http://www.rabodirectpro12.com/statzone/competition_rules.php
  11. ^ http://www.irishrugby.ie/provincial/31699.php
  12. ^ Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro12. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "Future of European Rugby resolved" (Press release). RFU. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  14. ^ http://www.ulsterrugby.com/news/6878.php
  15. ^ http://www.ulsterrugby.com/team/the-academy-plus/
  16. ^ Cronin, Ciaran (2007). The Ireland Rugby Miscellany. 

External links[edit]