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Delighted Louis Ludik's new deal will benefit Ulster and Ireland

By Michael Sadlier

Perhaps the painful outcome of colliding with Bundee Aki has been slightly eased for Louis Ludik after being granted a three-year contract extension to stay on at Ulster.

The South African, who is currently recovering after fracturing his cheekbone in that collision with Aki - in what was the first defeat of the season to Connacht at the start of the month - will now be with the province until the summer of 2020, which is also significant as he becomes Irish-qualified after the end of this season.

The new deal means that Ludik - who can play wing, centre or full-back - should find himself becoming part of the national set-up next autumn with his versatility likely to bring him very much into the reckoning for selection.

Ludik has also been in notably great form but, thanks to the cheekbone which required surgery, he will now have to sit things out until the end of next month before being able to pull on an Ulster shirt again.

The 30-year-old was originally signed from French club Agen as an overseas player in 2014, but last season was granted an extension by the IRFU which involved having his status revised to that of 'project player' who would qualify to represent Ireland after three years.

"I feel so blessed and it's really amazing," the former Sharks player said.

"Last year I signed a one-year deal and this year they've offered me another deal so I'm extremely delighted.

"I didn't think twice about saying yes and I'm really fortunate to stay here for a few years longer.

"It's an amazing club so I'm really looking forward to it and I'm thrilled to be extending my stay at Ulster. Myself and my family feel very much at home here.

"Everything about Ulster Rugby is first class; the stadium, the training facilities, the players and coaches, the medical care and the supporters.

"There is a brilliant vibe amongst the squad and everyone is working hard to try to achieve success this season.

"Once I return to fitness, I'm looking forward to contributing to the team this season and for the following three years."

As for his current predicament, Ludik described having to go under the knife after shipping the injury in Galway.

"I've had surgery and they put in two plates to put it (the cheekbone) back in place. It's not that painful, it's just very uncomfortable," he said.

Ulster's Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, said: "Keeping Louis is a major boost for us.

"He is an outstanding guy who gives 100 per cent to the cause and adds so much value both on and off the pitch.

"He is a great influence on the squad and does some great work in the local community.

"His form at the start of this season has been absolutely brilliant and I'm looking forward to seeing him deliver for us over the next few years."

Meanwhile, Ulster Rugby will be out in force to pay their respects to Munster boss Anthony Foley, who passed away at the weekend, in the lead-up to tomorrow's funeral with players, coaches and officials travelling to Killaloe in Co Clare.

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