18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Aided by some astute signings and the emergence of a dose of underage talents, Ulster seem well-equipped to challenge for Celtic League honours this term.
Head Coach: Mark McCall; Assistant Coaches: Allen Clarke, Neil Kelly
Captain: Simon Best
Founded: 1879; Ground: Ravenhill (Capacity 12,000); Sponsors: Bank of Ireland
Transfers: In: Isaac Boss (scrum-half, Waikato), Justin Harrison (lock, New South Wales), Justin Fitzpatrick (prop, Castres Olympique)
Out: Andy Ward (retired), Neil Doak (retired), Gary Longwell (retired), Matt Mustchin (Edinburgh)
2005/06 Squad: John Andress, Jonny Bell, Neil Best, Rory Best, Simon Best, Isaac Boss, Tommy Bowe, Nigel Brady, Ryan Caldwell, Kieran Campbell, Byrn Cunningham, Campbell Feather, Stephen Ferris, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Rowan Frost, Justin Harrison, Oisin Hennessy, Tyrone Howe, David Humphreys, Adam Larkin, Kevin Maggs, Andrew Maxwell, Matt McCullough, Neil McMillan, Rod Moore, Paul Shields, Reece Spee, Paul Steinmetz, Lewis Stevenson, Shane Stewart, James Topping, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace, Roger Wilson, Bryan Young, Scott Young
Average Age: 26
Celtic League History:
2001/02: Semi-finalists (9-15 v Munster); 2002/03: Semi-finalists (10-42 v Munster); 2003/04: Runners-Up; 2004/05: Eighth
Top Points Scorers: David Humphreys (392), Adam Larkin (199)
Top Try Scorer: Tyrone Howe (16)
Top Kickers (Conversions, Penalties): David Humphreys (130), Adam Larkin (75)
2005/06 Odds To Win: 12/1 (Paddy Power)
Players To Watch:
Isaac Boss: The 25-year-old will link up with Ulster following the end of tenure in New Zealand with Waikato and the Hurricanes next month, and should prove an influential buy. Likely to push Kieran Campbell all the way for the first choice berth, Boss, a former All Black Under-19, has Irish ancestry and could find a way into Eddie O'Sullivan's plans.
Andrew Trimble: An Ireland Under-21 with a prodigious talent, Trimble looks likely to follow fellow Ulster youngster Tommy Bowe into the senior Irish set-up, soon rather than later. Great ability, pace and strength for a 20-year-old - very comfortable at outside centre.
Neil McMillan: The Ballymena man, who was on the fringes of the Ireland squad last year, has just come back from a year out with a serious knee injury. The talented flanker was forced to have the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee re-constructed. If McMillan can get back up to somewhere near his peak before Christmas, it could be a bumper season for the 24-year-old.
Player Speak: Neil Best: "It's important we get a good start, our away form was poor last year and we need to sort that out if we are to do well in the Celtic League.
"It's very important for us to do well in Cardiff (next week) as they have been a sort of bogey team for us."