Ulster have secured the services of four senior squad members as well as signing up five players from the Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy.
Chris Henry, who has done a very good job in deputising as captain in the injury-enforced absence of Rory Best, has committed himself for the next three years.
The 25-year-old No 8 forward made his senior squad debut last season and has five Ireland ‘A’ caps to his credit.
Henry expressed his delight in having enlisted for a further term and his belief that Ulster are moving forward.
“I believe the squad has moved a considerable distance over the past 12 months and has now become a young, vibrant side challenging both in the Magners League and Heineken Cup.
“I am really pleased that I will be part of the team for years to come. They are a great bunch of guys and there is some fantastic talent coming through.”
A trio of fellow-seniors have enlisted for two years — hooker Nigel Brady (30), open side Willie Faloon (23), and centre Ian Whitten (22).
With 65 Ulster appearances clocked up in the course of a career in which he has had to contend with Irish Grand Slam winner Best for the number two jersey, Brady is a vastly experienced squad member.
Faloon and Whitten have become senior regulars this season and both have progressed significantly.
The Academy players to have signed up are scrum half Ian Porter, centre/wing Nevin Spence, and props Adam Macklin and Paddy McAllister.
And like them, Neil McCombe, the Belfast Harlequins lock/back row forward, has enlisted for one year. All five have Irish Under 20s honours.
Ulster Rugby Operations Director, David Humphreys said: “Our focus is to continually build on the foundations set and to mould a powerful Ulster side, consisting mainly of indigenous players, with a number of high-profile overseas signings.”