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Jonny Bell rings the change with his exit from Ulster Rugby

By Michael Sadlier

It's time for another shake-up at Ulster Rugby with the not entirely unexpected departure of the long-serving Jonny Bell at season's end, to hook up with David Humphreys at Gloucester, while Australian Joe Barakat will be coming onto the coaching ticket at the Kingspan.

Bell is almost as synonymous as Humphreys when it comes to embodying lengthy commitment to the game with Ulster - former director of rugby Humphreys made what was a shock exit for England last summer - and the former Ireland centre now ends a link with his home province which goes back over two decades as a player and academy coach before becoming involved with the senior team as assistant coach specialising in defence.

But with new director of rugby Les Kiss also majoring as a defensive expert, and due to take up the reins in the wake of Ireland's campaign at this autumn's World Cup, the future for Bell already looked rather more secure elsewhere.

So, the 40-year-old, who was part of Ulster's European Cup winning side of 1999, is now due to take over as assistant coach with defensive responsibility at Kingsholm and reunite with Humphreys - and John Afoa - at the end of this season.

Fifty-one-year-old Barakat (right) - who joins Ulster on a two-year contract - is a well-travelled coach and is currently working in Japan but he and Kiss are also familiar with each other due to their previous involvement at the New South Wales Waratahs.

Barakat was with the Waratahs from 2006 until his departure to Japan five years ago and after taking on the role of academy coach, he had worked his way up to being head coach of the Junior Waratahs and assistant set-piece and defence coach for the senior side - Kiss was an assistant coach at the Sydney-based side for six years after taking up the role in 2002.

Currently with Toshiba Brave Lupus, who play in Japan's Top League, Barakat specialises in set-piece coaching for forwards as well as dealing with attack and defence though it is believed he will have a more wide-ranging role at Ulster where Allen Clarke is believed to be staying on as forwards coach.

Sydney-born Barakat has a considerable pedigree in the game and previously had a stint with Australia U-21s as forwards and defence coach back in 2004 where he worked under Laurie Fisher, who is now earning his keep as Gloucester's head coach.

Barakat has also had World Cup exposure and was the technical consultant for both Fiji and Samoa during the 2003 competition which led to him being appointed as technical director overseeing Fiji's forward play for the 2008 Pacific Nations Cup and, two years later, he also performed another specialist coaching role for the national team.

Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham paid tribute to Bell and described him as "a tremendous servant for Ulster Rugby both as a player and coach."

"When Jonny told us in October that he would be leaving to explore his options and expand his coaching experience, we set out to recruit a coach who would both complement the expertise that we already have, as well as providing a fresh insight and perspective into the game," Cunninham said.

"We are therefore hugely excited that Joe is joining Ulster."

Barakat spoke of his excitement at landing the post.

"This is a great opportunity for me to join a top European organisation and I am really excited to have the chance to work with and help improve such a strong panel of players at Ulster," he said. "I am committed to helping to deliver on our ambitions for success in the Guinness PRO12 and Europe."

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