Ulster Rugby has confirmed that Brian McLaughlin has extended his coaching contract with the province for a further season.
Brian McLaughlin took a sabbatical from his teaching post at Royal Belfast Academical Institution to take up the head coach role with Ulster in July 2009, but has now formally resigned from his position at the Belfast school to continue coaching the province.
In this, his second season in charge, McLaughlin has coached Ulster to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup – the first time the province has reached the knock-out stages since they lifted the trophy in 1999 – and Ulster are also still in contention for a Magners League top-four finish and a much coveted play-off place.
During his time in charge, McLaughlin has been credited with nurturing young talent within the province.
This season he has handed debuts to Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy players Paddy Jackson, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and most recently Conor Gaston, who made his first senior appearance at Ravenhill against the Newport Gwent Dragons two weeks ago.
McLaughlin joined Ulster Rugby in the summer of 2009 with over 15 years of coaching experience. Regarded as an excellent technical coach, McLaughlin is a stickler for the basics but not afraid of a little ingenuity.
Part of a much-lauded Ards back row in the 1980s with Ireland stars Philip Matthews and Nigel Carr, McLaughlin’s playing career was cut short by injury.
Highly regarded for his coaching work at Schools level, where he guided RBAI to seven Ulster Schools Cup finals in a twelve-year period, McLaughlin was also successful at Ulster and Ireland age grade level.
He coached club sides Malone and Instonians before guiding Ballynahinch through a historic season in 2008/09, culminating in promotion to Division 1 of the All-Ireland League.
McLaughlin was part of the successful Ireland Under-21 coaching team that won two Triple cCowns 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 to win the Triple Crown in both 2006 and 2007.
Commenting on his contract extension with Ulster, he said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be committing my coaching future to Ulster. I’ve said before that I feel there is something special about this Ulster squad.
“Had I opted to return to teaching at this stage, I would always have wondered what we could have been capable of.
“I’ve chosen to stay because of the confidence I have in the players and coaching staff. We have developed a good squad culture and an array of talent that will stand us in good stead in the next few years.
“Since I came on board two years ago, we have always looked to compete with the best teams in Europe and we are definitely continuing to progressing in the right direction.
“I would like to thank the Board of Governors of RBAI for their understanding following my decision not to return to teaching.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to count on the support of the school in allowing me to pursue my coaching ambitions with Ulster and Ireland.”
Ulster’s operations director David Humphreys commented: “I’m delighted that Brian has decided to continue in his role as head coach at Ulster Rugby.
“Over the past two years, he’s brought a huge amount of stability to the Ulster set-up and that’s been reflected in the improvements that we’ve made, particularly this season.”
The rest of the Ulster coaching staff will be finalised in the next few weeks.