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The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings

Quick look at the confirmed and (almost confirmed) signings for next season.

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Sam Carter and Gareth Milasinovich both have been confirmed as new arrivals at the Kingspan Stadium next season while it is believed Matt Faddes will be announced soon. Here’s a look at who they are.

Sam Carter

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Position: Second Row

Age:29

Club: Brumbies

Nationality: Australian

The low-down: An important signing as Ulster could definitely do with another leader in the pack – someone who brings experience and, equally as important, a bit of edge to the young squad.

Carter is a totemic figure for the Brumbies and a born leader, being named co-captain along with Christian Leali’ifano. Following in the footsteps of his famous father, David Carter, he has won 16 caps for the Wallabies.

He is what you might call an ‘old-school’ second-row. He carries aggressively over the ‘hard-yards’ and has had one of the top tackle-counts for each of the past number of seasons. He has a relentless work ethic and is extremely useful at the set-piece.

Carter’s playing style bears more resemblance to Johann Muller than Iain Henderson. He puts in the important, unglamorous work in the engine room, tirelessly hammering away at the breakdown coalface. He is Mr Consistency and hasn’t had many major injury problems over the past few years. All signs point to this being a brilliant signing for Ulster.

Matt Faddes

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Position: Utility Back

Age: 27

Club: Highlanders

Nationality: New Zealand

The low-down: Given the nature of modern rugby, it pays to have versatile players. Addison has been a revelation for Ulster since his arrival as a utility back. Let’s hope Faddes can replicate his success in an Ulster jersey (particularly as Ulster will be without Stockdale and Addison for the start of the season).

Like Addison, Faddes is a quick and agile back who has an eye for a gap in the opposition defence. He has played international Sevens rugby for New Zealand and has become a cult hero at Otago for his skilful and creative playing style. However, like so many cult heroes, Faddes’ career has been plagued by inconsistency – capable of great bits of skill but most definitely a ‘confidence player’, prone to go through the occasional patch of poor form.

Reassuringly, there are highlights packages of him on YouTube showing that he is capable of being a potent attacking threat. Granted, anyone can look good in a montage of their ‘best bits’ but, if nothing else, he looks like a player who will be fun to watch and bring a few moments of excitement to the Kingspan. This will be a case of ‘In Bryn We Trust’ and Ulster fans should be hopeful considering Cunningham’s ability to identify and recruit good quality backs ‘Moneyball’ style.

Gareth Milasinovich

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Position: Prop (both sides)

Age: 26

Club: Worcester

Nationality: South African (Irish Qualified)

The low-down: Props who claim to be able to play on both sides of the scrum should be treated with suspicion. Remember Tom Court? Sometimes it’s better to stick to what you’re good at.

Ulster have needed to bolster their front row options for some time now and their track record of recruitment in this area hasn’t exactly been great. At 6’3” and 21 stone, Milanisovic certainly looks the part (although so did Rodney Ah You and Van der Merwe).

Due to injury and competition, he hasn’t played a huge amount of rugby which has limited his development. By all accounts, he is both ‘big’ and ‘strong’ – words often used to describe props who have yet to develop technique. However, under the expert tutelage of McFarland – who specialises in getting the best from the ‘tight five’ – it’s possible that Milanisovic, who has all the requisite physical attributes, could be moulded into a force to be reckoned with.

In the few times I’ve seen him, he has been solid if unspectacular – not a bad thing for a prop who’s only 26 (props, as we all know, are born in their late 20s). He will add some depth and much needed competition to the front row department.

In other news, Ulster fans should join together and pray that the rumours about Jack McGrath’s move up North are true. If they are, it looks like Ulster will finally have the formidable front row club they have been lacking and it is hoped Milanisovic will play a key role in this.


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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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News

Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

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Edinburgh snap up Tigers lock

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Lock Carmichael joins from Tigers

Edinburgh Rugby today secured the signing of promising 20-year-old Leicester Tigers lock Rob Carmichael on a three-year deal.

The 6ft 11in second-row arrived in the capital today on an initial loan until the end of the season, before the long-term move becomes permanent this summer.

Carmichael was born and raised in Hong Kong after his Scottish father, and English/Welsh mother, emigrated to Asia just under 30 years ago. He came through the ranks at Sandy Bay RFC before the family returned to the UK in 2019.

That year he joined the Tigers academy, making two Premiership Cup appearances alongside representing England U20, remaining eligible for Scotland by ancestry.

On joining Edinburgh Rugby, Carmichael said: “This is a massive move for me and an incredible opportunity I’ve been given. I’m delighted to join and I’m really glad I’ve been able to make the move to Edinburgh early on loan. I’ve only heard great things about the club.

“I’ve wanted to live in Scotland my whole life so I’m glad I’m able to make the move now. Edinburgh is an incredible city, while my parents and whole extended family are really excited that I’ve joined a Scottish club.”

Combining education with an academy contract at Tigers, Carmichael played BUCS Super Rugby at University of Nottingham where he studied Sports Science.

The towering lock was named in the England U20 squad for the 2023 U20 Six Nations where he featured in all five fixtures for the Red Roses.

Carmichael continued: “I’ve got a lot to learn about Edinburgh. I’ve only visited a couple of times but everything I’ve heard about the city and the club has been really positive. I couldn’t be more excited to move up.

“I think it’s going to be great for my development and I can’t wait to learn off the experienced second-rows at the club. I just want to add as much as I can to the team and see how much I can improve as a player. I know I’ve got loads to learn.”

Carmichael linked up with the club’s senior squad today as preparations continue for Edinburgh Rugby’s next BKT United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys at Hive Stadium on Friday 1 March.

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Sean Everitt said: “We’re delighted to welcome Rob [Carmichael] to the club. He’s a player with great raw ability who has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level.

“We’ve been looking at Rob for a while given his Scotland links and we’re thankful to Tigers who’ve released him on an initial loan. He’ll be able to get his feet in the door and hit the ground running ahead of joining on a long-term deal this summer.”

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

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Ulster ready for Ospreys challenge in Wales

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Fixture News

Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has named his Ulster side to take on the Ospreys at Swansea.com Stadium in Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

The province returns to action in the URC for the first time since defeating league leaders, Leinster Rugby, at the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day.

Ireland internationals Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Tom Stewart and Nick Timoney are back with the team, following their release from the Ireland team’s Guinness Six Nations camp.

The experienced front row sees Andrew Warwick start at loosehead, with John Andrew at hooker and Marty Moore starting at tighthead prop.

In the second row, Academy products, Harry Sheridan and skipper Iain Henderson, pair up as Ulster’s locks.

The back row sees David McCann start at blindside flanker. Marcus Rea starts at openside flanker, with Ireland international, Nick Timoney, starting at eight, as Ulster aim to win the battle at the breakdown in Swansea.

McFarland opts for the talented half-back pairing of Nathan Doak at scrum-half and Jake Flannery at ten.

Jacob Stockdale returns from international camp to start on the left wing as he hopes to continue his try-scoring form, with the winger having dotted down six tries this season in the URC so far.

The young and dynamic centre partnership sees Jude Postlethwaite join James Hume in the engine room of the backfield.

Mike Lowry starts on the right wing, with Will Addison completing the backfield at full-back.

Ulster can call on a wealth of talent and experience from the bench, with a 5:3 split that features a two time Rugby World Cup winner and a current Ireland international.

Tom Stewart is named on the bench as he returns from Ireland duty for the match.

Springbok prop, Steven Kitshoff, is named alongside Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Dave Shanahan, Luke Marshall and Ethan McIlroy to complete Ulster’s replacement options.

Ospreys v Ulster, Round 10 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Sunday 18 February, 3pm, Swansea.com Stadium (live on ViaPlay and URC.tv).

With the URC celebrating the people and communities behind the professional players competing in the league through its Origin Round this week, Ulster Rugby recognises the important role of clubs and schools in player development, with 11 of this weekend’s starting 15 having come through the Ulster pathway.

(15-9) Will Addison (Upper Eden RFC), Mike Lowry (Dromore RFC), James Hume (Instonians RFC), Jude Postlethwaite (Lisburn RFC), Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch RFC), Jake Flannery (Kilfeacle RFC), Nathan Doak (Lisburn RFC);

(1-8) Andrew Warwick (Ballymena RFC), John Andrew (Ballymena RFC), Marty Moore (Barnhall RFC), Harry Sheridan (Civil Service RFC), Iain Henderson (C) (Belfast Academy RFC), David McCann (Cooke RFC), Marcus Rea (Ballymena RFC), Nick Timoney (Blackrock RFC).

Replacements: Tom Stewart (Belfast Academy RFC), Steven Kitshoff (Maties RFC), Scott Wilson (Dromore RFC), Cormac Izuchukwu (Tullamore RFC), Matty Rea (Ballymena RFC), Dave Shanahan (Clontarf RFC), Luke Marshall (Ballymena RFC), Ethan McIlroy (Ballynahinch RFC).

For more info on #GrassrootsToGreatness, visit the URC website.

*For the URC Origin Round, details of each player’s first club are listed above.

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