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Ulster Rugby's Roger Wilson aiming for two big years after new deal

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Roger Wilson has been awarded a new two-year contract that will keep him at the Kingspan Stadium until the summer of 2017.

The 33-year-old has already amassed 165 appearances for his native province despite spending four years in the English Premiership with Northampton Saints between 2008 and 2012.

Speaking after penning the fresh terms, the backrower said: "Ulster Rugby is a great place to be right now so I am pleased to have signed a new two-year contract with the province.

"Physically, I feel that I am as fit and well as I have ever been and I am looking forward to making a big contribution over the next two years."

The signing represents one of the first personnel decisions made by Bryn Cunningham, who started his role as Team Manager on November 10, and the former Ulster fullback said: "Roger is one of the most consistent and hard-working members of our squad.

"The fact that he has made 165 appearances for Ulster as well as having played more than 100 times for Northampton Saints illustrates his value to the teams he has represented and his considerable durability.

"His experience of the game is invaluable, especially as we seek to bring through the next generation of players in Ulster and I am delighted that he has committed to the province for a further two seasons."

The former RBAI pupil, who won the Schools' Cup under Brian McLaughlin's tutelage in 2000, made his Ulster debut in 2003 against the Ospreys and went on to win the Ulster Player of the Year award in both 2004/05 and 2006/07.

His solitary Ireland cap came on the tour to Japan in 2005 with his international ambitions hampered by the decision to move to Franklin's Gardens in 2008.

The successful stint across the Irish Sea brought him winners medals from the Challenge Cup in 2009 and the LV Cup in 2010.

He did, however, miss out on the top prizes, playing in three successive Premiership semi-final defeats while a Johnny Sexton-inspired Leinster famously stormed back from a 22-6 half-time deficit to beat Northampton 33-22 in the Heineken Cup final of 2011.

Since his return on a three-year deal in the summer of 2012, he has already made more than 50 appearances, adding two tries to the 12 he notched in his first spell, and has featured in all 13 of the games so far this season.

The contract brings him in line with fellow backrowers Robbie Diack and Chris Henry, also on deals that run until 2017, while number 8 Nick Williams is under contract for next season at least.

Andrew Trimble, Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy are all out of contract this summer but the Irish international trio may well be dealt with by the IRFU's Performance Director David Nucifora ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Other first-team regulars without deals extending beyond this campaign are Darren Cave, Callum Black and Rob Herring, as well as some of the recent graduates from the Academy such as Andrew Warwick and Stuart McCloskey.

While Henry said yesterday that he expects to play again this season after his heart surgery last week, Wilson will be expected to shoulder a significant load over the coming months with Ulster still looking light of options in the loose forward department.

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