Ulster Rugby have announced that a new team tanagement structure has been put in place for the professional game in the province, with former Ireland skills coach Brian McLaughlin taking over from the departed Matt Williams as Ulster’s head coach.
In the province’s new structure, David Humphreys will take control of rugby operations, with responsibility for the Ulster senior team, the Ulster Ravens (formerly Ulster ‘A’), the Ulster Under-20s and the High Performance/Academy structure, reporting to the Chief Executive Michael Reid.
Brian McLaughlin has been appointed as the new head coach, with responsibility for training and team selection and he will be assisted by Jeremy Davidson, Neil Doak and Peter Sharp.
Humphreys will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of team management and preparation, ensuring Ulster are prepared to a world class level, and will work closely with the head coach on all aspects of training.
The new structure will, for the first time, allow McLaughlin and his assistant coaches to focus on the on-field issues relating to the senior team, while Humphreys will drive Ulster’s attempts to produce a squad largely made up of home-grown players, supported by a small number of high profile players from overseas.
Ulster CEO Michael Reid said: “Having played at the very highest level and having worked with a number of top coaches, David’s knowledge of the professional game will be invaluable in ensuring Ulster are properly and professionally prepared for Magners League and Heineken Cup action.
“The development of our young players, succession planning and the provision of appropriate playing facilities are key to Ulster’s future success.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome Brian to the team.
“A proud Ulsterman himself, and with his knowledge of our players and the skills he has gained throughout his coaching career to date, I am confident that we have the right man to lead us forward on the field.”
ULSTER’S NEW MANAGEMENT TEAM:
David Humphreys MBE: Operations Director
David Humphreys’ 16-year rugby career began in 1992. The former Ulster out-half won 162 caps for his province, and 72 international caps for Ireland. David also captained Ulster to European Cup glory in 1999.
Having retired as a professional rugby player at the end of the 2007/08 season, he went on to take up the role as Ulster Rugby’s Operations Director, with a responsibility for the off-field activity of the professional team and Academy.
While the 38-year-old retains the same title, his new role within the management structure means that he will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of team management and preparation, ensuring Ulster are prepared to a world class level.
He will work closely with the head coach on all aspects of training and team preparation and he will drive Ulster’s attempts to produce a squad largely made up of home-grown players, supported by a small number of high profile players from overseas.
David was educated at Ballymena Academy and Queen’s University, Belfast, where he qualified as a solicitor, and Oxford University. He has represented Ireland at all levels including Schools, Under-21, ‘A’ and senior and also captained the Barbarians touring squad.
He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster in 2003 for Services to Sport and an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in January 2004.
Brian McLaughlin: Head Coach
Brain McLaughlin was previously the Head of Rugby at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, where he coached the senior team to five Ulster Schools Cup victories.
He has over 15 years experience of coaching at Schools level, Under-21 level – where he guided an Ulster side to an interprovincial title – and senior level.
Brian, now 50, was part of the successful Irish Under-21 coaching team that secured two Triple Crowns in 1996 and 1998 and in September 2005 he took up the role of specialist skills coach with Ireland, a position he held until April 2008, helping the team win the Triple Crown in both 2006 and 2007.
Having had previous spells coaching Malone and Instonians, Brian returned to coaching club rugby with Ballyahinch at the start of the 2008/09 season.
He was a key member of the coaching staff that guided the County Down club to an incredible haul of senior trophies – the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup, the First Trust Ulster Senior League trophy, the AIB Cup and AIB League Division Two play-off crown and ‘Hinch also gained promotion to AIB League Division One.
A former Ards back rower, McLaughlin played alongside internationals Phil Matthews and Nigel Carr in the 1980s until injury brought a premature halt to his playing career.
Jeremy Davidson: Assistant Coach (Forwards)
Jeremy Davidson is a former Ulster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions lock. Davidson returns to Ulster after two seasons in a coaching role with French side Castres Olympique.
Jeremy’s playing career came to an unfortunate end after an accident on a fishing trip which saw him aggravate an old knee injury in May 2003.
After that, he moved into coaching, first with Dungannon RFC in 2003, before returning to Castres, whom he also played with, in 2007 as forwards coach under former French full-back Ugo Mola.
Davidson’s commanding lineout displays helped carve out his big international reputation. Educated at Methodist College Belfast and the University of Ulster, he represented Ireland at Schools and Under-21 levels before winning his first senior cap against Fiji in November 1995.
He played in all of Ireland’s seven internationals in 1996/97 and in the summer of 1997 he played with the Lions on their successful tour of South Africa, and was voted players’ player of the 1997 tour.
The 35-year-old Davidson, who also had a stint in the early part of his career with London Irish, made his last Test appearance against Scotland in the 2001 Six Nations and in all, won 32 caps for Ireland.
Peter Sharp: Assistant Coach (Forwards)
Peter Sharp is a professional rugby league coach who worked with Ulster as a specialist defence consultant during the 2008/09 season and now formally joins the coaching staff.
The 54-year-old Australian boasts an impressive rugby CV having coached at the top level in Australia’s National Rugby League with the Newcastle Knights, the Manly Sea Eagles, Melbourne Storm and Parramatta Eels.
Sharp left his native Australia in 2006 when he took up a position with English rugby league outfit Hull. He helped them reach the finals of the Super League in 2006.
Neil Doak: Assistant Coach (Backs)
Neil Doak broke into the Ulster senior squad at an early age and the scrum half played 76 times for Ulster, before retiring from representative rugby in April 2005.
Neil, 37, boasts a wealth of sporting talent having represented Ireland at cricket on 32 occasions as well as playing professional rugby for Ulster.
Since retiring from professional rugby, the former Wallace High School pupil has coached the Ulster Under-19 side, has been assistant coach to the Ulster Under-20 and ‘A’ squads and was a specialist skills coach with the Ulster senior team last season.
His role within the senior squad will focus on working closely with the backs, however he will also retain his key role with the Phoenix Ulster Academy as Academy coach.