Belfast Telegraph

Brian McLaughlin extends Ulster contract

By Niall Crozier

Delighted Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin last night agreed a one-year contract extension, insisting there is ‘something special' to come from his blossoming Ravenhill squad.

McLaughlin took a sabbatical from his teaching post at Royal Belfast Academical Institution to take up his Ulster role in July 2009 but has now formally resigned from his position at the Belfast school to continue coaching the province.

In his second season in charge McLaughlin has coached Ulster to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, the first time the club has reached the knock-out stages since they lifted the trophy in 1999, and the team are also still in contention for a Magners League top four finish and a much coveted play-off place.

Ruan Pienaar’s last-gasp penalty fired McLaughlin’s men to a vital 22-19 win over the Glasgow Warriors on Friday night and they now sit in third place in the table.

The progress convinced McLaughlin that he could not walk away wondering what might have been.

Commenting on his extension, McLaughlin said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be committing my coaching future to Ulster.

“I’ve said before that I feel there is something special about this Ulster squad and had I opted to return to teaching at this stage I would always have wondered what we could have been capable of.

“I’ve chosen to stay because of the confidence I have in the players and coaching staff.

“We have developed a good squad culture and an array of talent that will stand us in good stead in the next few years.

“Since I came on board two years ago we have always looked to compete with the best teams in Europe and we are continuing to progress in the right direction.

“I would like to thank the Board of Governors of RBAI for their understanding following my decision not to return to teaching.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to count on the support of the school in allowing me to pursue my coaching ambitions,” he added.

Ulster’s Director of Rugby David Humphreys commented: “I’m delighted that Brian has decided to continue. Over the past two years he’s brought a huge amount of stability to the Ulster set-up and that’s been reflected in the improvements that we’ve made, particularly this season.”

The rest of the Ulster coaching staff will be finalised in the next few weeks.

During his time in charge, McLaughlin has been credited with nurturing young talent and this season he has handed debuts to Academy players Patrick Jackson, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy and Conor Gaston.

Part of a much-lauded Ards back-row in the 1980s with Ireland stars Philip Matthews and Nigel Carr, McLaughlin’s playing career was cut short through injury.

He guided RBAI to seven Ulster Schools’ Cup Finals in a 12 year period and was also successful at Ulster and Ireland age-group level.

McLaughlin was part of the successful coaching team that guided Ireland to U21 Triple Crowns in 1996 and 1998.

In September 2005 he took up the role of specialist skills coach with Ireland, a position he held until April 2008, helping the team to win the Triple Crown in both 2006 and 2007.

Belfast Telegraph


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