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Humph jnr ready to shine

By Gavin Mairs

The return of Ian Humphreys to Ulster next season has the potential to be smart business not just for the province but also for Ireland.

The 25-year-old, having signed a two-year deal with Ulster having been released from his contract with Leicester Tigers with one year remaining, will ensure the Humphreys' name lives on at Ravenhill with big brother David set to retire at the end of this season.

Although he struggled to maintain a regular place at the Tigers, Ian's list of achievements at the UK's biggest club was nonetheless impressive.

Since signing for the Midlands club from Belfast Harlequins in the summer of 2005, he played an important role in the Tigers progress in all four competitions in 2006/07 as Tigers achieved Guinness Premiership and EDF Energy Cup glory and reached the finals of both the Heineken Cup and the Guinness A League making 15 appearances for the senior side in 2006/07, scoring 100 points, including two tries.

He spent most of his time battling with Andy Goode and Paul Burke for a place in the starting XV, and the Ireland A player's chances have been limited under new head coach Marcelo Loffreda.

His start in the Guinness Premiership clash at Bath on Tuesday night was only his fifth appearance of the season.

And with Loffreda keen to sign Stade Francias fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, and another Argentinian No 10, Ignacio Mieres, having just arrived at the club on a month's trial, Humphreys was right to look for a move at a time when he now needs regular rugby, having learned so much from his exposure to the Leicester way.

"I am really pleased to be signing for Ulster, everyone who grows up in Ulster wants to play for Ulster and it is something I wanted to do," said Humphreys, who captained Ireland at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong during 2005 and made his Ireland A debut during the 2007 shadow Six Nations and was also selected for the Churchill Cup played later that summer.

It will be great playing alongside a lot of guys that I have grown up with and played alongside at various levels, I went to school with Matt (McCullough) and Bryan (Young) and Rory (Best) is one of my best mates."

Asked if David had been offering him any advice, he said: "David has always been there for me, I have talked to him about things and he told me that everything is going well under Matt Williams and he likes the way things are being run. He is there for advice but would never force his opinions."

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