20 Jun, 03:31
Four Ireland players - Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip - have been included in the British & Irish Lions team for Saturday's first Test against Australia in Brisbane.
The aim of the Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy is to provide a continuous flow of indigenous rugby talent to perform to interprovincial, European and international standards.
All Academy players must have the ability to play rugby for Ireland. Player potential for a place in the programme is assessed under the following key areas - skills and positional competence, fitness, tactical and game awareness, and personal attitude.
Ulster Rugby's High Performance Director and Academy Manager, former Ulster and Ireland lock Gary Longwell, commented on the selection.
"These players were selected on the basis that they have the potential to play professional rugby," he said.
"A number of factors including attitude, technical and tactical ability and fitness are considered. The inductees have impressed in the Ulster Under-20 interprovincial matches, which are viewed as a talent confirmation phase.
"There are no guarantees. Not every player within the Academy system will graduate to professional rugby.
"However, these young men are the cream of the crop, and the natural progression for them is from the Academy to a development contract with Ulster Rugby where they will be training full-time with the Ulster senior squad.
"Then on to a full professional contract. Selection for the Academy is a reward and an opportunity to press a claim for a senior Ulster shirt and contract.
"It is imperative that Ulster Rugby continues to select indigenous players and the role of the Academy is to carry on the excellent work of schools and clubs throughout the province," he added.
Commenting on their continued sponsorship of the Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy, Simon Little, Phoenix Natural Gas Communications Manager said: "Phoenix are delighted to be involved with both the today and the tomorrow of Ulster Rugby, in terms of supporting future talent through the Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy.
"We very much value our Academy partnership and look forward to many successful years ahead with Ulster Rugby."
The Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy also works with a number specialists to deliver both a sports science programme through the Sports Institute Northern Ireland and a life coaching programme.
The aim is to help players combine a training programme at the Academy, with their education and personal life.
Current Ulster players who have come through the Ulster Rugby Academy include: Andrew Trimble, Stephen Ferris; Niall O'Connor, Mark McCrea, Chris Henry, Ryan Caldwell, Darren Cave, David Pollock, Paul Marshall, Willie Faloon, Ian Whitten and departed Ulster player Tommy Bowe.
Gary Longwell is the current Academy Manager, while his fellow former Ulster and Ireland players, Jonathan Bell and Niall Malone, are the Academy's Elite Player Development Officers.
Chris Sheills and Kevin Geary are the strength and conditioning coaches.
2009/10 PHOENIX ULSTER RUGBY ACADEMY:
Ian Porter, Patrick McAllister, Chris Cochrane, Jamie Smith, James Sandford, Tommy Seymour, Nevin Spence, Jonny Shiels, Adam Macklin, Sean Dougall, Ricky Andrew, Luke Marshall, Niall Annett, James McKinney, Michael Allen, Michael Heaney, Conor Gaston, Paul Pritchard, John Burns.