Ulster Rugby today confirmed the signings of talented young back row players Charlie Butterworth and Sean Reidy ahead of the 2014/15 season.
Charlie Butterworth, who can operate at openside or blindside flanker, joins on a one-year contract from Ulster Bank League outfit Landsdowne. The 23-year-old Wicklow native was a key player as the Dublin side won the Division 1A title in 2012/13.
Sean Reidy has signed a short term deal with the province after impressing with Counties Manukau Steelers in New Zealand.
The 25-year-old can play across the back row and is Irish-qualified through his grandfather who hailed from Castlegregory, County Kerry.
The additions will give Ulster even more depth in an already strong area. The province currently have three back row players on tour with Ireland in Argentina, while Roger Wilson played for a World XV against South Africa last weekend and they also have Nick Williams on the books.
And with young indigenous talent like Conor Joyce emerging too, it will provide the coaches with plenty of options for next season.
Butterworth, who played for the Ireland Club XV this year, is delighted to have signed his first professional contract, stating: "I can't wait to get started, it will be brilliant to be involved. Ulster are one of the best teams in Europe, if not the world, at the moment and it was a 'no-brainer' once David Humphreys offered me the contract.
"When I got the chance to go up and have a look at the facilities I was just really blown away. It's a top class stadium - everything is state of the art and I can't wait to start training."
Reidy is also relishing the prospect of joining the Ulster squad for their pre-season regime, admitting: "I had heard a lot about Ulster before I signed. They are a team with a lot of history and tradition but have done really well in their competitions recently and are a team on the up.
"It's a great opportunity for me to go over and learn from the coaches and try to develop my game."
The IRFU have announced the fixtures for the forthcoming Ulster Bank League season and following on from the success of last year's 'Friday Night Lights' games, the evening kick-offs continue and Division 1A sees the return of semi-finals and a final for the 2014/15 campaign.
More than 400 boys and girls from 20 teams took part in the Aviva Mini Rugby Festival and enjoyed a chance to 'play where their heroes play'. We hear from the IRFU's Hendrik Kruger and former Ireland international David Wallace, as well as Aviva's Eoin O'Neill and some of the club coaches involved.
Old Belvedere moved to the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1A as full-back Josh Glynn booted them to a 21-15 victory over Dolphin. Their home win came a day after title rivals Clontarf lost to Lansdowne, setting up a fascinating final round next Saturday.
The top two teams in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League - Clontarf and Old Belvedere - played out a high quality 'Friday Night Lights' encounter in front of a large Castle Avenue crowd. Irish Rugby TV brings you the best of the action.
Tries from man-of-the-match Daniel Riordan, captain Gerry Hurley and replacement Declan Lavery inspired the Ireland Club team to a 28-3 victory over their Scottish counterparts in the Ulster Bank Club International match. Check out this recap of the annual Dalriada Cup clash.
Number 8 Sean Wall captained Enniscorthy to Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup glory on Saturday as they got the better of Clogher Valley on a 10-9 scoreline. He was interviewed by Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Scrum half Evan Lett scored the only try of the game as Enniscorthy won the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup title for the first time, beating Clogher Valley 10-9 in a tight decider. He spoke to Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Clogher Valley's joint head coach David Black reflected on his side's 10-9 Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup final loss to Enniscorthy. Despite the disappointment, he said it was 'a big achievement for such a small club' to reach the decider.
Out-half David Joyce wrapped up Clontarf's latest win in the Ulster Bank League, scoring the closing try and 16 points in total as they beat Young Munster 26-9 at Tom Clifford Park. Check out highlights of Saturday's game on Irish Rugby TV.
UCD qualified for the Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup final with a hard-earned 21-20 semi-final win over Galwegians. The Irish Rugby TV cameras were at Belfield on Saturday to catch the best of the action.
Defending champions Lansdowne entered the Christmas break as the third-placed team in Ulster Bank League Division 1A following a nine-try 61-11 thrashing of Dolphin on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch. Check out the highlights on Irish Rugby TV.
The IRFU have launched a new concussion guide which outlines four simple, important messages: Stop - Inform - Rest - Return. Irish Rugby TV spoke to IRFU Head of Medical Services, Dr. Rod McLoughlin, IRUPA Operations Manager Simon Keogh and IRFU international referee John Lacey about the guide - further information is available at http://www.irishrugby.ie/news/30281.php.
Out-half Craig Ronaldson, who has made a successful transition from Ulster Bank League rugby with Lansdowne to a professional contract with Connacht, talks about the step up to this level of rugby, the importance of the league in providing game-time and a shop window for players and he also previews the province's back-to-back clashes with Toulouse.
The Irish Rugby TV cameras recorded today's much-anticipated 'Your Club, Your Country' Grand Prize Draw, with the 2013 winners drawn by IRFU President Pat Fitzgerald. Lionel Mahon from Ulster Bank and independent auditor Aidan Connaughton from Grant Thornton were also present for the draw which was hosted by the IRFU's Barry Cunningham.
Watch highlights of Ballynahinch's clash with Garryowen in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, as tries from Ross Adair and Aaron Ferris guided Hinch to their first win of the campaign at Ballymacarn Park.