|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2008)|
|Location||Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Ground(s)||Ravenhill (Capacity: 13,500)|
|2012–13||1st (Playoff runner up)|
Ulster Rugby (Irish: Rugbaí Ulaidh; Scots: Ulstèr Rugby) is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from Ireland. They compete in the RaboDirect Pro12 and the Heineken 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 Ravenhill in Belfast, which has a capacity of 13,500.
Ulster turned professional along with its fellow Irish provinces in 1995 and has competed in the Celtic League since it was founded in 2001, having previously competed in the annual interprovincial championship. Ulster won the Heineken Cup in 1999 and won the Celtic League in 2006.
Ulster have many youth teams and also the 'Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy' which helps to develop talented young rugby players. The teams which Ulster field each season in various competitions are as follows: Ulster Youth (U18s), Ulster Schools (U18s), Ulster U19s, Ulster U20s, Ulster Ravens and of course the full Ulster XV.
- 1 History
- 2 Ulster Ravens
- 3 Ravenhill Stadium
- 4 Current standings
- 5 Honours
- 6 Colours and crest
- 7 Current squad (Season 2013/2014)
- 8 Staff
- 9 Player records and statistics
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
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 back in 1999 against French side US Colomiers at Lansdowne Road in 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 coming in the 1984/5 season when they defeated Andrew Slack's "Grand Slam" Wallabies. This was one of only four defeats for the Australians on a tour which saw them defeat Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.
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. Coached by Harry Williams and Managed by John Kinnear the squad contained many part-time players two of whom, Andy Matchett and Stephen McKinty, started the final.
From 2001–04 the Ulster team was coached by Alan Solomons, a former Assistant Coach of the Springboks and head coach at The Stormers and Western Province in his native South Africa. It was during this time that Ulster rugby 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, a 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 2005–06 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 2006/2007 season in fine form racking up a number of victories including a 30–3 thrashing of perennial Heinieken 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 2007/2008 season well 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. Assistant coach Steve Williams took temporary charge of the team. Under Williams, Ulster had some initial success, however several Ulster losses 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 Coach of Ulster after finishing 8th in the Celtic League that season. He was replaced by Brian McLaughlin as Head Coach, with Jeremy Davidson and Neil Doak as assistants, and former Ulster and Ireland outhalf David Humphreys taking on the role as Director of Rugby.
A New Era
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 fans 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. In the final, Ulster lost 14-42 to Leinster at Twickenham Stadium. In the RaboDirect Pro 12, 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 Pro 12 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 Pro 12 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.
Ulster Ravens is the team that represents Ulster in the British & Irish Cup and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship. 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.
Ravenhill has been the home of Ulster Rugby since the 1923/24 season. Ravenhill has hosted two Rugby World Cup and several Ireland matches. The first redevelopment of the ground was finished in 2009 with the opening of the New Stand. Due to the increased support of the team in recent years however, Ravenhill is currently undergoing extensive reconstruction. With two new stands being created at the Aquinas and Memorial ends of the ground. The old grandstand is also being demolished in order for a new, modern stand to be formed. The planned reconstruction will increase the capacity of the ground from around 12,000 to 18,000. This will be enough to host Heineken Cup Quarter-Finals and Pro 12 Finals. The new Aquinas Stand will also house the new training centre for the team. Work is expected to be completed in early 2014.
|Club||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against||Points Difference||Tries For||Tries Against||Try Bonus||Losing Bonus||Points|
|7||Newport Gwent Dragons||9||4||0||5||163||159||+4||12||13||0||3||19|
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
|Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places. Qualification for the Heineken Cup is based on each country's allocation, i.e. three highest–ranked Irish teams, three highest–ranked Welsh teams, both Italian teams and both Scottish teams. Updated 30 November 2013. Source: RaboDirect PRO12|
- Heineken Cup
- PRO12 (Formerly known as Celtic League)
- Celtic Cup
- Winners: 1 (2003–04)
- Irish Inter-Provincial Championships
- Winners: 26
Colours and crest
Ulster's home kit is traditionally white with hints of black and red. Their away kits are mostly black and red, although from 2010 to 2012, their third kit was blue with hints of black and white. Traditionally, the Red Hand of Ulster is shown on Ulster's crest. For years, the red hand was only used to present the crest. However, in 2003, Ulster renewed their crest. The red hand is in the centre of the crest with two black and red rugby balls highlighting it. The provincial Flag of Ulster is the official flag of Ulster Rugby and it is used by the Ulster supporters at home and away games. Other flags are also used at home and away games include the abolished 1953 to 1972 Government of Northern Ireland flag due to its colour scheme and origin, it is seen as contentious due to its past use, the Flag of South Africa, because they have players from South Africa, including captain Johann Muller and scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, the St Patrick's Saltire flag, a red and white checkered flag and many other flags, mostly red and white.
Current squad (Season 2013/2014)
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.
- Internationally capped players in bold
- Players qualified to play for Ireland on residency or dual nationality *
Players in (Season 2013/2014)
- James McKinney from Rotherham Titans
- David McIlwaine from Bristol Rugby
- Bronson Ross from Coventry R.F.C.
Players out (Season 2013/2014)
- Niall O'Connor to Jersey R.F.C. 
- Nigel Brady to Stade Aurillacois 
- Ali Birch to Rotherham R.U.F.C.
- Adam D'Arcy to Bristol Rugby 
- Blane McIlroy 
The Ulster Academy squad for 2013/14 is:
- Jake Caulfield (Prop)
- Kyle McCall (Prop)
- Andrew Warwick (Prop)
- John Andrew (Hooker)
- Jonny Murphy (Hooker)
- John Donnan (Second row)
- James Simpson (Second row)
- Alan O'Connor (Second row)
- Conor Joyce (Back row)
- David Shanahan (Scrum-half)
- Stuart McCluskey (Centre)
- Rory Scholes (Full Back)
|Director of Rugby||David Humphreys||Ireland|
|Head Coach||Mark Anscombe||New Zealand|
|Team Manager||David Millar||Ireland|
|Backs Coach||Neil Doak||Ireland|
|Defence Coach||Jonny Bell||Ireland|
|Head of Strength & Conditioning||Benjamin Stevenson||Ireland|
|Strength & Conditioning Coach||Kevin Geary||Ireland|
|Head of Physiotherapy||Gareth Robinson||Ireland|
Player records and statistics
|Tries||Andrew Trimble||21||2005 - present|
|Points||David Humphreys||564||1998 - 2008|
|Appearances||David Humphreys||57||1998 - 2008|
(correct as of 19 October 2013)
|Tries||Andrew Trimble||34||2005 - present|
|Points||David Humphreys||786||1998 - 2008|
|Pens & Cons||David Humphreys||272||1998 - 2008|
|Appearances||Paddy Wallace||130||2001 - present|
(correct as of 27 May 2013)
British and Irish Lions
Note: Philip 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.
- Irish Interprovincial rugby championship BBC Sport, 1 September 2000
- "Ulster coach quits". Sky Sports. 13 November 2007.
- "Williams leaves Ulster". Sky Sports. 21 May 2009.
- "London now calling for Ulster". Irish Times. 29 April 2012.
- "Fixtures and Results : Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- "Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- RaboDirecct Pro12, Competition Rules, Season 2012-2013, http://www.rabodirectpro12.com/statzone/competition_rules.php
- Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro 12. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Cronin, Ciaran (2007). The Ireland Rugby Miscellany.
- Official site
- The UAFC – Ulster Rugby Supporters site
- The UAFC – Ulster Supporters Forum
- Videos of Ulster Matches
- InTouch Rugby Ulster Rugby Online News
- The FRU Ulster Supporters Fanzine
- ercrugby Profile