The calibre of Ulster’s front row has been strengthened for the long-term with the recruitment of world class props to supplement and support the development of the province’s young homegrown players over the next four years.
Negotiations are at an advanced phase with a player that is a proven winner on the biggest stage, who will join the province next season on a three-year deal following the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
Ahead of this highly anticipated arrival in Belfast, an equally hard-edged scrummager, Scotland international and British & Irish Lion Rory Sutherland, will join the province from next week on a short-term deal to reinforce squad depth at loosehead.
Both signings not only provide significant international quality to the squad but will also play a key role in developing Ulster’s senior and Academy front rows in the years to come.
Head coach Dan McFarland commented: “We have an exciting stable of young Irish-qualified props at Ulster, so to be able to support their development alongside some world class operators is great news for everyone associated with Ulster and Irish rugby.
“As a province that is intent on consistently competing for Championships, we’re always looking to add to and improve our squad – this includes recruiting players to be a part of the Ulster Rugby family, but most importantly to support and drive the development of young players within our pathway.
“We look forward to welcoming Rory into the squad next week and making further announcements on our recruitment for next season very soon.”
On the arrival of Sutherland, McFarland added: “Myself, Roddy Grant, Jonny Bell and Jonny Petrie have all worked with Rory at some point in his career and know he will add quality on the field and bring an invaluable level of experience and mindset that our young props can squeeze every drop out of.
“Having Rory’s level of competitiveness at scrum training is going to test and teach the very best we have, something as a scrum coach and former prop I have experienced first-hand and am now excited to be a part of.
“Whilst we are all looking forward to welcoming Rory to Ulster, we are also mindful of the very difficult situation many players and staff at Worcester Warriors find themselves in and we wish them the best for whatever the future holds.”
Sutherland has been capped 20 times for Scotland and made six appearances during last year’s British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa, including a start in the opening Test and an appearance off the bench in the second one.
He will be named in the Ulster squad to travel to South Africa next week for the BKT United Rugby Championship matches against the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks.
On his move to Ulster, the Hawick native said: “My thanks go out to everyone in the rugby community who has supported myself, and all those at Worcester, over the past while during what has been a heart-breaking time for players and staff alike.
“However, I’m looking forward to linking-up with Ulster, and getting stuck into the BKT URC and the many familiar faces and rivals that it will bring.
“The province are on a quest for silverware, and I’ll do all I can this season to play my part in that ambition.”