Andrew Trimble last night gave Ulster supporters a reason to smile amid the gloom of the province’s poor start to the season by signing a new two-year extension to his contract to keep him at Ravenhill until 2011.
The Ireland star, whose contract was due to expire at the end of the season, follows Stephen Ferris in committing his future to the province despite the difficult times as coach Matt Williams attempts to rebuild the side and restore the province’s fortunes.
“I’m glad to be staying with Ulster for the foreseeable future, it means a lot to me to play in the Ulster jersey and in-front of the Ulster supporters, who are the most passionate I have experienced and really supportive of the team,” said Trimble, who will later today be named in the Ulster side to face Munster in the Magners League clash at Ravenhill tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm).
“I’m very settled here and enjoy playing with the squad; it’s made up of a great bunch of lads. There is a real talented group of players in the Ulster squad and although we have not been winning at the minute we are all very committed and optimistic about the future success of Ulster.”
Trimble, who has just turned 24 earlier this week, has been an integral part of the squad for three seasons since making a huge impact in his rookie when Ulster were crowned Magners League champions in 2006.
He has already won 63 caps for his province and 24 caps for Ireland and boasts an impressive try-scoring ratio for both sides. He has 23 tries for Ulster and eight touchdowns for Ireland.
Although the theology student’s form has been patchy so far this season, he remains one of the most potent strike runners in Ireland and having previously attracted serious interest from overseas including French giants Biarritz, Ulster will rightly view his new contract as a major coup.
In these tough times, it is vital that the province build a team around its best indigenous talent. For once a team gets a reputation for only being effectively a feeder club, hopes of ever becoming a serious player again are over.
And having seen Ulster lose high profile players like Tommy Bowe, Neil Best and Roger Wilson last season, it is clear that the IRFU threw their weight behind the province’s bid to put together an attractive package for Trimble.
Not surprisingly, Ulster Rugby’s chief executive Michael Reid said he was delighted to have reached the agreement with the Ballymena player, who was one of six Ulster players named in Declan Kidney’s 41-strong Ireland squad for the autumn Test series.
“The fact that Andrew is prepared to put pen to paper at this stage in the season shows his huge commitment to Ulster Rugby and I would also like to thank the IRFU for their assistance in helping to secure the new deal,” said Reid.
“While results this season have not been as hoped, Andrew’s re-signing, emphasises Ulster’s desire to continue to develop our home grown talent and ensuring that top quality players are attracted to the club.”
Head coach Matt Williams described Trimble’s new deal as a real boost for the province’s beleaguered fans.
“Andrew is not only an accomplished rugby player, both at club and international level, but a man of the highest calibre,” said Williams. “He has a natural ability and pace to his game and I’m delighted that he has chosen to give the best years of his career to Ulster. Andrew’s commitment to Ulster when we are not on winning form is a real boost to the team and the supporters.
“Andrew is a player that can naturally fit into different field positions; he is comfortable both at centre and wing, which is great from a coaching point of view as it opens up opportunities and partnerships that maybe not have been possible otherwise. He also brings both experience and confidence to the centre partnership and a great team spirit to the Ulster camp so I’m really pleased to have him on board for another two seasons.”