Ulster Rugby have confirmed that five of their current players have signed two-year extensions to their contracts.
The new deals will see Paul Steinmetz, Bryn Cunningham, Paul Marshall, Nigel Brady and Declan Fitzpatrick playing at Ravenhill until, at least, the end of the 2008/09 season.
The New Zealand-born Steinmetz, who turned 30 last month, previously played Super 12 rugby for both the Hurricanes and the highlanders, and he is currently in his fourth season with Ulster.
The once-capped All Black is Ulster’s top try scorer so far this season – with six tries in 17 games. Primarily a specialist inside centre, he is talented midfield back and useful goal kicker.
Ireland ‘A’ full-back Cunningham was a member of Ulster’s European Cup-winning side back in 1999. The 28-year-old, who was a budding tennis player, made his Ulster debut against Wasps in 1997 and is one of Ulster’s most-capped players (115 caps). He has won six ‘A’ caps with Ireland.
Nippy scrum half Marshall is in his first year of a professional contract with Ulster, having been in the Academy for two seasons. He made his full Ulster debut against the Dragons in 2006. He captained the Ulster Under-21 side last season and was part of last term’s Irish Under-21 Six Nations team.
A hand injury unfortunately cut short the Belfast Harlequins clubman’s U-21 World Championship campaign in France last summer.
Hooker Brady made his Ulster debut during the 2002/03 campaign – first lining out against Munster. But he had to wait over a year for his next cap, which came against Edinburgh in a Celtic League opener in September 2004.
The Dungannon forward, aged 27, has been unfortunate this season with injuries and he is currently sidelined with a thumb injury.
Fitzpatrick, a very promising prop, is in his first season as a fully contracted Ulster player and he made his debut for the province against Llanelli in September. The 23-year-old also has two Ireland ‘A’ caps to his name, from last summer’s Churchill Cup, having represented the U-21s previously.