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Stevenson aiming to help Bangor rise through the ranks after joining as player/coach

 

By Michael Sadlier

Bangor have set out their stall as a club intent on targeting AIL promotion by appointing former Ulster lock Lewis Stevenson as player/coach for next season.

The 32-year-old, who has quit the professional game to return to Belfast after spending last season at Connacht, will bring a wealth of experience to the ambitious Division 2C club after over a decade as a player spent in both England and Ireland.

"It's going to be a massive challenge and I'm really looking forward to it and I think this is a good first step for me into the coaching side of things," he said of his new role.

"I put out feelers when I knew I was coming back here again and a few different clubs got in contact, but Bangor really impressed me with their ambition and where they saw themselves going.

"That impressed me and clearly they intend to get stronger and build towards getting to that next level."

Stevenson has signed a two-year deal at the north Down club as player/coach with responsibility for the forwards and will work with head coach Jason Morgan and scrummaging coach Ale Alatise as the side which finished a lowly eighth in 2C in their first season back in senior rugby aim to turn their fortunes around.

Bangor swept all before them one year prior, winning three trophies on their way to promotion back to the senior ranks just two years on from playing in the second tier of the junior game in Ulster.

As well as playing 89 times for Ulster, and featuring for Irish Wolfhounds, Stevenson also had stints in England with Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins.

After being released early from his Ulster contract in January 2016, he finished that season by returning to the Chiefs and then, after initially being unveiled by junior club Instonians on their coaching ticket alongside Roger Wilson, Stevenson was signed up for a season by Pat Lam at Connacht where he made 12 appearances in both the PRO12 and Champions Cup.

Bangor Director of Rugby Danny Curran said: "We believe we have assembled a young, exciting coaching team and that Lewis will provide the extra drive needed to push the club to the next level."

Meanwhile, it is believed that former Scotland captain and Northampton Saints Heineken Cup winner Budge Pountney could be lined up to bring a major boost to the coaching ticket at junior club Ards next season, as well as at nearby Regent House.

Ards finished bottom of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1 last season, losing 17 of their 18 games after their fall from the senior ranks in 2015.

Elsewhere, Instonians are thought to have John Andress, who played with Edinburgh, Munster and Connacht, in charge for next season as well as having Ulster's most-capped player Roger Wilson still on board following his retirement from the professional scene.

The Shaw's Bridge side finished just one point behind Omagh at the top of Championship 1 last season, with the County Tyrone team ultimately going on to win promotion back to the AIL.

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