Ulster Rugby

Ulster Rugby
Nickname(s) The Ulstermen
Founded 1879 (1879)
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ground(s) Kingspan Stadium (Capacity: 18,196)
Chairman Shane Logan
Director of Rugby Les Kiss
Captain(s) Rob Herring
Andrew Trimble
Most caps Roger Wilson (207)
Top scorer David Humphreys (1,585)
Most tries Andrew Trimble (68)
League(s) Pro12
2015–16 4th (playoff semi-finalist)
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

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 Irish Rugby Football Union (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 (previously known as the Celtic League and the Magners League) since it was founded in 2001, having previously competed in the annual Irish interprovincial championship.[1] Ulster "A" competes in the 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.

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.

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 (predecessor and still common name for the recently built Aviva Stadium). 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. 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. 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 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.[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]

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 on English soil 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.

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.[4] 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. 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 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 despite a red card early on to Jared Payne. 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, record appearance holder 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.

Current standings


2016–17 Pro12
Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points for Points against Points diff Tries for Tries against Try bonus Losing bonus Points
1 Ireland Munster 10 8 0 2 267 129 +138 34 15 4 1 37
2 Ireland Leinster 10 8 0 2 264 183 +81 34 24 4 1 37
2 Wales Ospreys 10 7 0 3 315 167 +148 45 21 7 1 36
4 Wales Scarlets 10 7 0 3 222 174 +48 28 19 4 0 32
5 Ireland Ulster 9 6 0 3 192 146 +46 25 18 2 2 28
6 Scotland Glasgow Warriors 10 5 0 5 223 199 +24 30 24 4 3 27
7 Wales Cardiff Blues 10 5 0 5 219 248 −29 25 30 1 1 22
8 Ireland Connacht 9 4 0 5 176 190 −14 22 23 3 1 20
9 Wales Newport Gwent Dragons 10 3 0 7 170 237 −67 19 29 1 2 15
10 Scotland Edinburgh 10 3 0 7 213 236 −23 28 28 1 1 14
11 Italy Zebre 8 1 0 7 118 253 −135 12 35 0 4 8
12 Italy Benetton Treviso 10 1 0 9 125 342 −217 14 48 1 1 6
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:[8]
  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 2017–18 European Rugby Champions Cup.
Blue background indicates teams outside the play-off places, that earn a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

    European Rugby Champions Cup

    Pool 5

    P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
    France Clermont 2 2 0 0 84 41 +43 11 6 2 0 10
    France Bordeaux Bègles 2 1 0 1 61 62 –1 8 7 1 0 5
    Ireland Ulster 2 1 0 1 32 46 –14 2 3 0 0 4
    England Exeter Chiefs 2 0 0 2 26 54 –28 1 6 0 1 1


    Colours and crest

    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 with two rugby balls.[9] The Ulster Rugby crest is on all official club merchandise including replica jerseys.

    Ulster's home kit is primarily white.


    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 Premium 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 quarterfinal against Saracens on 5 April 2014. The reconstruction of Ravenhill was completed in early 2014 and the stadium was officially opened in May 2014 at a Pro12 match against Leinster.[10] 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 quarterfinals and Pro12 finals.[11] The Family Stand houses the training centre for Ulster.

    Current squad

    For player movements leading up to the 2016–17 season, see List of 2016–17 Pro12 transfers § Ulster.

    2016–17[12] 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 Hooker Ireland Ireland
    Rob Herring (c) Hooker Ireland Ireland
    Jonny Murphy Hooker Ireland Ireland
    Rodney Ah You Prop Ireland Ireland
    Callum Black Prop Ireland Ireland
    Wiehahn Herbst Prop South Africa South Africa
    Ricky Lutton Prop Ireland Ireland
    Kyle McCall Prop Ireland Ireland
    Johnny Simpson Prop Ireland Ireland
    Andrew Warwick Prop Ireland Ireland
    Peter Browne* Lock England England
    John Donnan Lock Ireland Ireland
    Iain Henderson Lock Ireland Ireland
    Alan O'Connor Lock Ireland Ireland
    Kieran Treadwell* Lock England England
    Dan Tuohy Lock Ireland Ireland
    Franco van der Merwe Lock South Africa South Africa
    Marcell Coetzee Flanker South Africa South Africa
    Robbie Diack Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Chris Henry Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Conor Joyce Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Sean Reidy Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Clive Ross Flanker Ireland Ireland
    Lorcan Dow Number 8 Ireland Ireland
    Stephen Mulholland Number 8 Ireland Ireland
    Matthew Rea Number 8 Ireland Ireland
    Roger Wilson Number 8 Ireland Ireland
    Player Position Union
    Angus Lloyd Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
    Paul Marshall Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
    Ruan Pienaar Scrum-half South Africa South Africa
    David Shanahan Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
    Brett Herron* Fly-half England England
    Paddy Jackson Fly-half Ireland Ireland
    Jonny McPhillips Fly-half Ireland Ireland
    Sam Windsor* Fly-half Australia Australia
    Mark Best Centre Ireland Ireland
    Darren Cave Centre Ireland Ireland
    Luke Marshall Centre Ireland Ireland
    Stuart McCloskey Centre Ireland Ireland
    Stuart Olding Centre Ireland Ireland
    Jared Payne Centre Ireland Ireland
    Jacob Stockdale Centre Ireland Ireland
    Tommy Bowe Wing Ireland Ireland
    Craig Gilroy Wing Ireland Ireland
    Andrew Trimble (c) Wing Ireland Ireland
    Louis Ludik Fullback South Africa South Africa
    Peter Nelson Fullback Ireland Ireland
    Charles Piutau Fullback New Zealand New Zealand

    Ulster A

    Ulster A is the team that represents Ulster in the British & Irish Cup and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship.[13] 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.[14]

    Academy squad

    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
    Adam McBurney Hooker Ireland Ireland year 1
    Zack McCall Hooker Ireland Ireland year 1
    Peter Cooper Prop Ireland Ireland year 2
    Ross Kane Prop Ireland Ireland year 2
    Michael Lagan Prop Ireland Ireland year 3
    Tommy O'Hagan Prop Ireland Ireland year 1
    Craig Trenier Prop Ireland Ireland year 3
    Alex Thompson Lock Ireland Ireland year 3
    Conall Boomer Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
    Aaron Hall Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
    Marcus Rea Flanker Ireland Ireland year 1
    Nick Timoney Flanker Ireland Ireland year 2
    Player Position Union
    Aaron Cairns Scrum-half Ireland Ireland year 1
    Jonny Stewart Scrum-half Ireland Ireland year 1
    Andy Magrath Fly-half Ireland Ireland year 2
    Rory Butler Centre Ireland Ireland year 1
    Rob Lyttle Wing Ireland Ireland year 2
    Jack Owens Wing Ireland Ireland year 3
    David Busby Fullback Ireland Ireland year 3


    Position Name Nationality
    Director of Rugby Les Kiss  Australia
    Head Coach Neil Doak  Ireland
    Operation Director Bryn Cunningham  Ireland
    Assistant Coach Allen Clarke  Ireland
    Assistant Coach Joe Barakat  Australia
    Head of Strength & Conditioning Jonny Davis  Ireland
    Strength & Conditioning Coach Kevin Geary  Ireland

    Player records and statistics

    European Rugby Champions Cup

    Category Player Totals Years
    Tries Andrew Trimble 24 2005–present
    Appearances Andrew Trimble 65 2005–present
    Points David Humphreys 564 1998–2008

    (correct as of 1 June 2016)


    Category Player Totals Years
    Tries Tommy Bowe 46 2003–present
    Appearances Roger Wilson 154 2003–2008; 2012–present
    Points David Humphreys 786 1998–2008
    Pens & Cons David Humphreys 272 1998–2008

    (correct as of 1 June 2016)

    British and Irish Lions

    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.

    See also


    1. Irish Interprovincial rugby championship BBC Sport, 1 September 2000
    2. "Ulster coach quits". Sky Sports. 13 November 2007.
    3. 1 2 "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. Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro12. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
    9. http://www.ulsterrugby.com/news/6878.php
    10. http://www.irishrugby.ie/provincial/31699.php
    11. RaboDirecct Pro12, Competition Rules, Season 2012–13, http://www.rabodirectpro12.com/statzone/competition_rules.php
    12. http://www.ulsterrugby.com/Team.aspx
    13. "Fixtures and Results : Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
    14. "Ulster Ravens". Ulster Rugby. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
    15. http://ulsterrugby.com/team/academy-squad.php#.V-17j9zKqwk
    16. Cronin, Ciaran (2007). The Ireland Rugby Miscellany.

    External links

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