Ulster attraction

Published Thursday, 24 October 2013
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Ruan Pienaar, Nick Williams, Robbie Diack and Chris Henry. They're all instantly recognizable to Ulster supporters as key names in their squad.

However they are now also significant in that in recent weeks each of them has seen enough in their time with Ulster Rugby to suggest their future is bright in Belfast.

Traditionally in rugby union it's been seen that to play in France, or even England is the pinnacle that players should aspire to to get to the top in their career.

Ulster made the 2011/12 Heineken Cup Final for the first time since 1999 (when they won the old European Cup).

They lost to Leinster, but they have used the disappointment as a springboard, later making the Pro 12 Final - also losing to Leinster.

But more and more for those who sample life at Ulster - the question is why would they leave?

Often when this is put to stars from foreign shores the only complaint they have about playing with Ulster is the weather here (don't we all!).

But it is a testament to the operation off the field at Ulster that these stars feel this way.

And why not?

Just look at Ulster's recent history.

A strong start to this season, sees them sitting in fourth place in the Rabo Direct Pro 12.

And the beginning to the Heineken Cup campaign, has been more impressive still.

Last Saturday's was such a mature and professional performance, a trip to France in the Heineken Cup.

Tough assigment; but Ulster came away from the Stade Yves du Manoir with a comprehensive 25 - 8 success over Montpellier - this coming after the 22-16 defeat of English kingpins Leicester.

"That's the change of the mindset of the team that's here," Afoa told UTV.

"The club has had a lot of success over the last couple of years, maybe not winning trophies, but they have been there or thereabouts and it would be great if the team could stay together and keep some of the local and older experienced players to pass that culture down to the younger boys of what it is we do around here."

The development of Ravenhill will also help the club move forward, and build on average attendances which in the last two seasons have been 8,296 and 10,307 respectively.

And not only will it be a case, Mark Anscombe and the other management team members will hope, of keeping the existing star players, but also attracting more.

© UTV News
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Chris Brennan
Chris Brennan

Chris Brennan is a cross-platform sports journalist with UTV.

As well as featuring on UTV Live and contributing to u.tv, Chris can be heard regularly on U105, fronting the station's sports coverage.

Chris started his career part-time, whilst still at school, with the Down Recorder newspaper in Downpatrick and then began freelancing when at college and university.

It was at this stage that he moved into broadcasting and began freelancing for UTV in 2004.

Chris is a graduate of Queen's University Belfast, where he graduated in Modern History and Politics.

Apart from his huge appetite for all sport - but especially football - his other interests include history and travel.

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