Press Release from Ulster Rugby:
Ulster Rugby will welcome 600 supporters to the 18,211-seater Kingspan Stadium on Friday night for the first game of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season.
The trial to reintroduce supporters and other valued members of the Ulster Rugby family follows a comprehensive consultation process with local government, Belfast City Council and the IRFU. In total, around 850 people will attend the season opener against Benetton Rugby.
The event provides the club with the opportunity to work with supporters, to test a safe and manageable return to operations at Kingspan Stadium. Fans will be asked to provide feedback on their experience, to ensure the club continues to provide a safe and enjoyable experience in the weeks and months ahead.
All 600 tickets will be made available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process. 300 Members will be randomly selected and granted the opportunity to purchase two tickets each.
Commenting on the announcement, Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:
“Following a number of very challenging months for us all, I’m encouraged that this weekend will mark the measured return of a limited number of spectators to Kingspan Stadium.
“It seems only fitting that the fans who chose to support us by buying a membership, during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times we will face as a club, will be able to join us in the stands as we kick-off the new Guinness PRO14 season at home.
“This event is the culmination of a considerable amount of planning and preparation from across Ulster Rugby – together with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and local government – to ensure this is a safe and managed return to the Friday night lights.
“We hope the upcoming match will be the solid foundation on which we can continue to build towards once again being able to all stand up together.”
Friday night’s match will be fully seated, in groups of two, with physically distanced seating available for supporters in the Grandstand, Memorial Stand and AbbeyAutoline Family Stand. All tickets are priced at £20 each – seats will be randomly allocated in one of the three stands.
The online ballot will be open for 24 hours from 2pm on Tuesday 29 September on the Ulster Rugby Ticket Account Manager, and account holders can apply for one pair of tickets per every Adult #TogetherUlster Membership held. All successful applicants will be notified via email by 4pm on Wednesday 30 September. They will then have until 10am on Thursday 1 October to process payment and confirm their ticket purchase.
Ulster announce batch of new contract extensions
Winger, Baloucoune, has continually impressed with his agile performances for the Ulster men which have already earned him a call-up to the Ireland development squad since his debut in October 2018 against Dragons.
With a return from injury on the horizon, it’s not long before fans will once again be able witness the familiar sight of the Enniskillen native’s charge for the try line. Of his two-year extension, Baloucoune, said:
“I’m excited to be part of this Ulster team, and what we can strive to achieve for in the near future. I’d like to thank the coaching staff and physios who have helped me through my long-term injury this season and I can’t wait to be back playing again.”
Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:
“Rob has been in sensational form for us and has proven himself to be a prolific try-scorer as well as a superb defender. He’s been unlucky with injury this season, but he is not far off making his return which we’re all looking forward to.”
Ballymena-born, Luke Marshall, who has made 144 appearances for Ulster to date, is also set to remain at Kingspan Stadium until at least June 2023. The centre who is known as a combative, strong-running midfielder, has consistently performed for the province since joining the Ulster Academy in 2009. On the announcement of his extension, Marshall, said:
“I am happy to be staying on with Ulster as I feel we are building towards something special – especially with such an exciting young squad. It is a privilege to continue to represent my home province – and since my wife gave birth to our son three months ago, I am hopeful that he will be able to come and watch me play at Kingspan Stadium in the next couple of years.”
McFarland added: “Luke is one of our longest-serving players and brings an excellent ability to read the game and organise defences. I’m delighted that he’s committed to Ulster for a further two seasons, and we look forward to also seeing him back from injury soon.”
Lock, Alan O’Connor, is known both on and off the pitch for his leadership abilities with the 28-year-old recently captaining the province in the landmark win over Connacht at the Sportsground in December. Speaking of his contract renewal, O’Connor, said:
“I’m delighted to have signed on with Ulster for another two years. I’m really looking forward to continuing this journey with a great group of lads – it’s been a great experience so far. We, as a team, have grown so much over the last couple of years and we will keep growing and improving – to be part of that is very exciting.”
McFarland added: “Al has been a vital member of our squad for some time now. He is a player who epitomises the competitiveness and bite we expect at Ulster. It is because of this he has earned the honour of captaining the team on many occasions.”
Completing today’s announcements is 20-year-old Aaron Sexton who, since entering the Ulster Academy system in the summer of 2019, has already made his mark – most recently through his involvement in the win against the Leinster ‘A’ side, which saw Sexton contribute two match-defining tries.
The young player from Bangor will spend one year as a Development player, before being upgraded to a Senior Professional contract for the following season. Of the news, Sexton, said:
“It means a lot to me reaching this next step in my career, and I can’t thank everyone enough who helped get me to where I am. I’m really looking forward to working hard in the months ahead having had my first taste of senior rugby this year.”
On the last of the signings to be announced today, Dan McFarland, said: “Aaron has put in some really encouraging performances for Ulster in recent Inter-provincial ‘A’ games and IRFU Academy Sevens tournaments by demonstrating his next level speed and try-scoring ability. He earned himself an opportunity at senior level against Edinburgh, which we hope is the first of many senior appearances for Aaron in the future.”
Dan McFarland extends stay with Ulster for a further two years
Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has renewed his commitment to the province by signing a new two-year contract extension.
Since joining the club in August 2018, Ulster has regularly competed at the knock-out stages of both the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, including at the most recent Guinness PRO14 final – a first for the province in seven years.
Of his contract renewal, Dan McFarland, said:
“I’m delighted to be signing again with Ulster. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two and a half years working and learning with some really good people, and I’m looking forward to continuing to help drive on our improvement as a group and as individuals.
“As a group, we are extremely ambitious in our aim to be consistently competing for championships. With exciting young talent continuing to emerge out of our Academy system, joining forces with the proven talent within our squad – many of whom have been recently recognised at international level – I look forward to what the weeks and months ahead hold as we take on our next challenges in the domestic league and in Europe this season.”
Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, added:
“I’m extremely pleased to see Dan extend his commitment to Ulster Rugby, giving us the opportunity to continue to build on the fantastic work that he has done in his time here so far.
“It is plain to see, both on and off the field of play, the ethos that he has instilled in the group, and that is being borne out both in our performances and our results – a team of which the people of Ulster can be rightly and fiercely proud.
“I’m looking forward to working with Dan in the coming years, to see where we can take this. It’s an exciting prospect.”
Ulster & Leinster announce teams for huge Inter-Pro Clash
The team sees six changes to the side that defeated Munster at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday. Michael Lowry comes in to start at full-back and is joined on the wings by Matt Faddes and last weekend’s Player-of-the-Match, Ethan McIlroy. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield duo, and in the half-backs, John Cooney will partner Billy Burns.
Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore are named at loosehead and tighthead prop, with Rob Herring completing the front row at hooker. Alan O’Connor comes in to pair with captain Sam Carter in the second row. Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee make up the starting back row forwards.
John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Nick Timoney will provide forward reinforcements off the bench. David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham will offer back line cover.
Ulster team to play Leinster Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 11, Friday 8 January at the RDS Arena (kick-off 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney.
(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Greg Jones, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Ulster Rugby in the RDS Arena in Round 11 of the Guinness PRO14 has been announced by Leo Cullen (KO 7.35pm live on eir Sport and RTÉ Radio).
Johnny Sexton will captain the team as a number of players return from injury for the top of Conference A clash.
Hugo Keenan is selected at full back with Jordan Larmour back after a shoulder injury to start on the right wing and Dave Kearney selected on the left.
Robbie Henshaw starts in the inside centre jersey with Ross Byrne starting outside him in the number 13 jersey for the first time in his Leinster senior career.
In the half-backs, Jamison Gibson-Park is joined by captain Johnny Sexton.
Cian Healy starts at loosehead prop with Andrew Porter at tighthead, while Seán Cronin makes his first start of the season at hooker after recovering from a thumb injury.
Former Australian international Scott Fardy is joined by James Ryan in the second row while, in the back row, fit-again Rhys Ruddock starts with Josh van der Flier at openside and Caelan Doris at number eight.
On the bench, Harry Byrne returns from a back injury picked up in the warm-up before the Northampton Saints game.
Team News from Ulster Rugby & Leinster Rugby