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Clarke is boost for Ulster’s Academy

By Niall Crozier

Allen Clarke, a member of Ulster’s 1999 Heineken Cup winning side, has joined his native province in the role of Elite Performance Development Manager.

He links up with fellow Ulstermen Brian McLaughlin and Gary Longwell in the all-important role of producing well-prepared young players capable of stepping into the senior side.

Clarke will head the much-enhanced Phoenix Academy set-up and his appointment underlines the emphasis Ulster are placing on that level and, in particular, player development.

In tandem with identifying talent at an early age and ensuring that those players progress via the Academy, Clarke will be responsible for the Ravens and the Under 20s.

McLaughlin’s new role is Ulster Academy schools coach. In that capacity, he will go into schools where he will not only work with players but on their coaches, too, to ensure that they are developing as well. He will also be Ulster Schools coach.

Longwell continues as High Performance Manager with responsibility for Ulster’s under-age representative teams. In addition, his role entails him supporting Clarke and McLaughlin.

And another ex-Ulster and Ireland player, Niall Malone, will soon be joining as a coach.

Taking up his new job has meant Dungannon man Clarke leaving his role as High Performance Manager with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Clarke, who joined Northampton Saints from Dungannon and won eight caps for Ireland (1995-98), was hooker in the 1999 Ulster team which conquered Europe.

On his previous role with the IRFU, he said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to have been involved in such a critical role for Irish rugby over the past five years.

“I have worked with extraordinarily dedicated people. But above all else so many of the young players I have come in contact with have been truly exceptional in their dedication and desire.”

And looking forward to his new role, Clarke added: “Ulster Rugby has done extraordinary work, both on and off the field, to develop rugby in the province and is positioned for further major growth and success in the coming years.

“I look forward to being a part of this dynamic unit and contributing to what will be an exciting time for Ulster Rugby.”

David Humphreys, Ulster’s Director of Rugby who played alongside Clarke back in that ’99 triumph, said: “We are delighted to welcome Allen to our High Performance Academy and look forward to him building on the superb work already undertaken by Gary Longwell.

“Ulster Rugby recognises the importance of investing in the future by developing talent from within.

“The team of Gary Longwell, Brian McLaughlin and now Allen Clarke will ensure that we deliver a world-class High Performance Academy Programme which will be an integral part of delivering on Ulster Rugby’s ambitious targets.”

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