– 2008/9 season preview –

– 2008/9 season preview –

Club Details
Ulster Rugby,
Ravenhill Grounds,
85 Ravenhill Park,
Belfast BT6 0DG.

Stadium Capacity: 12,000
Website: www.ulsterrugby.com
Founded: 1879

Last time around: For a club with such a proud history that includes winning the Heineken Cup, last year will be viewed as a complete disaster. With just six wins they were in danger of finishing rock-bottom, although they avoided that thanks to a late run of form that saw them claimm four wins in the second half of the season. After an opening day victory over the Ospreys it looked as if it could be a good year for Ulster, but they then slumped to three straight defeats. The poor early season run cost Mark McCall his job, later to be replaced by Matt Williams, and ensured Ulster's season was never going to get going.

This time: A host of players have left the club, either for fresh pastures or retired, but Matt Williams has managed to attract several big name players. The two biggest names are South African World Cup winning prop BJ Botha and Australian Clinton Schifcofske, both who have commited their future to the Irish province. With a new coach, benefitting from a full pre-season in charge, and a clutch of new players there is a feeling that Ulster can turn their fortunes around this season. Time will tell but Ulster could be back to the good old days.

Coach: Former Scotland coach Matt Williams took over at Ulster half way through a disasterous season last year. With no time to stamp his mark on the squad he did well to salvage some face and will be looking forward to a full pre-season in readiness for the coming season. He had a torrid time of things as Scotland coach but had previously proved with Leinster that he is indeed a fine coach with the ability of resurrecting Ulster's fading fortunes.

Captain: tbc

One to watch: One of the new signings, Robbie Diack, who arrives on the back of a fine Super 14 campaign for the Stormers, is going to be key for Ulster. At just 23 he has his best years ahead of him, and has proven in the Super 14 that he is more than capable of mixing it with the best back rows around. A strong runner with ball in hand and a solid defender Diack will go from strength to strength with Ulster.

Final 2007/08 league position prediction: 7th

Squad: Thomas Anderson, Rory Best, Isaac Boss, BJ Botha, Nigel Brady, Ryan Caldwell, Jarleth Carey, Darren Cave, Tom Court, Bryn Cunningham, Simon Danielli, Kieron Dawson, Carlo del Fava, Rob Dewey, Robbie Diack, Stephen Ferris, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Neil Hanna, Chris Henry, Ian Humphreys, Mark McCrea, Matt McCullough, Paul McKenzie, Paul Marshall, Timoci Nagusa, Niall O'Connor, Ed O'Donoghue, Stuart Philpott, David Pollock, Clinton Schifcofske, Paul Steinmetz, Andrew Trimble, Paddy Wallace, Cillian Willis, Bryan Young.

Colours: White (home) Black (away)

Tickets: Tickets range from £5 to £30, although certain specials run from game to game.

Travel connections:

Car: Ravenhill Park is situated in the south east of Belfast just off the Ravenhill Road or Cregagh Road.

Train: Another option is to get an airport bus connection to Dublin City Centre and from Dublin Connolly Train Station board The Enterprise cross border service to Belfast Central Station. The journey takes approximately two hours five minutes and a standard return costs £32, first class travel is £59 return.

Bus: The Dublin to Belfast bus operates via Dublin airport and arrives at the Europa Bus and Rail Centre, Great Victoria Street. A standard adult return fare on this route is £17.90 valid for one month, Under 16's are half fare. The journey time is just over two and a half hours. A Citybus service (#33) regularly operates between Chichester Street in Belfast City centre and the Cregagh Road roundabout 2 mins walk from the rugby ground – on match nights just follow the crowd! Adult single fare £1.20 under 16s half price.

Plane: Located just 25 minutes from Belfast City Centre. An Airbus is in operation between the airport and Belfast city centre every 30 minutes which costs £6 single, £9 return. The International Airport Taxi Company operates from a taxi rank outside the main terminal building 028 9448 4353. A list of sample fares is displayed in the exit hall of the arrivals terminal. The fare to Belfast City centre is approx £23.