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Ulster coach Barakat won't be replaced after quitting Kingspan

By Michael Sadlier

Ulster will not be seeking any immediate replacement for assistant coach Joe Barakat who will depart the Kingspan Stadium in December.

In a surprise and fairly unusual move, it was announced yesterday that the experienced Australian will leave Ulster early - he was contracted up until the end of the season - to return home as a senior assistant coach at Super Rugby franchise Western Force in Perth.

Barakat, whose specialities are defence and contact zone work, will quit after the second back-to-back European Champions Cup game in Clermont on December 18.

After that, the 53-year-old's duties will be absorbed within the existing coaching structure of Les Kiss, assistants Neil Doak and Allen Clarke and performance analyst Niall Malone.

So, short-term, there will be no replacement for the popular Australian with the long-term situation remaining unclear regarding filling the roles performed by Barakat who hooked up with Ulster in 2015 on a two-year deal from his previous role in Japan.

Barakat previously coached at the Waratahs in Sydney, spent five years in Japan and worked with the Australia U21 side and with Fiji.

Though early exits for both coaches and players tend to either suggest difficulties behind the scenes, or a decline in significant input, Ulster are adamant that Barakat's departure is not due to any off-field issue.

"At the outset, Joe and I had an understanding that we would consider any options that became available to him and I can understand how appealing this role is for a number of reasons," said Kiss who brought Barakat in just over a year ago.

"It is an enhanced position within the coaching structure and allows him to return to Australia after seven years away from his family.

"I have known Joe for a long time and, as expected, he has done a tremendous job for Ulster Rugby. We wish him every success in his new role," Kiss added.

Barakat stated that the offer appeared to be one he just couldn't turn down.

"This opportunity with Western Force is a chance for me to take on a senior position at a Super Rugby franchise while also bringing me back to be closer to my family, having spent a long time away from home," he stated.

Belfast Telegraph


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