Planet Rugby

Uncertain new era for Ulster

01st July 2014 14:34

Share:

mark anscombe ulster

Sacked: Mark Anscombe

The exits of David Humphreys and Mark Anscombe within weeks have left Ulster's long-term structure up in the air ahead of next season.

Sceptical coaching changes are nothing new at Ravenhill; just remember the uproar two years ago when Brian McLaughlin was shifted into an academy role after guiding the province to a Heineken Cup Final.

Anscombe was sacked on Monday by Ulster after two years in Belfast, despite recently signing a one-year extension.

Humphreys departed Ulster back in June to become Gloucester's new director of rugby, after spending the last 16 years with the province including his playing days.

That kind of service is rare in the modern era, making his exit whilst lamentable also easy to comprehend, his dedication earning him the right to explore new opportunities.

Now starting out at Kingsholm with Gloucester, Humphreys is in charge of a club who have a concrete belief that they deserve greater success than recent years have given them.

The story at a now David Humphreys-less Ulster isn't dissimilar. Following the Heineken Cup campaign of 2012 and the departure of McLaughlin, Ulster have been baying for silverware.

Reports that senior players felt the squad had gone as far as they could under Anscombe's tutelage, combined with the outgoing Humphreys and certain players leaving all appears to have made the New Zealander's position untenable - much to the open frustration of his son Gareth.

"Pretty disappointed to hear about the way the old mans been treated at @UlsterRugby, how do you expect to get success at a club when you have clowns at the top making decisions like this."

Despite reaching the Pro12 playoffs and Heineken Cup knockout stages, Anscombe has lost out in both years to Leinster and Saracens respectively.

His one-year contract extension to take him through to 2015 seems now to have been worth nothing once the news surrounding Humphreys' future was revealed.

Ulster therefore head into the new season without a head coach or director of rugby in place, although that structure may be discarded moving forward - something for chief executive Shane Logan and the professional game committee to work out over the coming weeks.

While the race is on for a permanent man on the top, Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss has been handed the temporary reins to a squad that has lost props Tom Court and John Afoa, while the trio of Johann Muller, Paddy Wallace and Stephen Ferris have all retired.

Their recruitment has been solid, carried out under Humphreys before his exit. Franco van der Merwe has been signed to replicate Muller's influence in second row while Louis Ludik and Ian Humphreys, brother of David, bring experience. Bringing back Ruaidhrí Murphy from the Brumbies might be the best move of the bunch.

Ulster have an abundance of international talent and a strong spine built around Rory Best, Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson. That's before considering the talent out wide in Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall and Jared Payne. But a clear head and finalised structure at the top is needed sooner rather later.

July is not the time to be searching for coaching staff, hence the momentary arrival of Kiss - although his attention will be divided with the November Tests on the horizon. Promoting promising young coach Neil Doak into the head coach's role would feel a little premature.

Ulster have been ruthless in cutting Anscombe rather than playing it safe. Now they have to prove it was the right move.

by Ben Coles

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs ToulonUlster vs Toulon Preview
Scarlets vs LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Preview
Bath vs ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Preview
Montpellier vs GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Preview
Northampton vs OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Preview
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Preview
Castres vs LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Preview
Wasps vs HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Preview
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 92 Preview
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade Francais14:00
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs ConnachtExeter vs Connacht Preview
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , October 25
Western Province vs LionsWestern Province vs Lions Preview
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , October 25
Taranaki vs TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615