Big news from Ulster Rugby this week as the club announced the arrival of Mark Anscombe as Head Coach, and the return of Ireland International wing Tommy Bowe.
Mark Anscombe, who has just finished a three year stint as Head Coach of the Auckland ITM Cup side, will join Ulster on a two year contract from the 2012/13 season. Anscombe will arrive in Belfast on 1st June, and will link up with John Afoa and Jared Payne, who he worked with at Auckland.
Mark Anscombe said: "I've been keeping an eye on Ulster for a while now and I'm very impressed with the plans and what's happening at Ulster Rugby and I'm very excited about the prospect at being involved in that.
It goes without saying that the job will present me with an exciting challenge. Ulster have been developing over the past few years, they've had some new players come in to strengthen the squad so the foundations are there but there's a lot of work to be done in terms of moving on to the next stage and that will be a challenge for me and for all of us."
Meanwhile, also preparing to make his way to Belfast is Tommy Bowe. Bowe will return to the club he began his professional playing career with, with a try-scoring debut in his first appearance for the club in the 2003/04 season. Before moving to Ospreys in 2008, Bowe amassed 91 caps for Ulster, picking up 170 points along the way.
David Humphreys, Director of Rugby at Ulster Rugby said: "We are delighted to be in a position to finally confirm that Tommy will be playing his rugby with Ulster next season and I'd like to thank the IRFU for their assistance in bringing him home. The speculation around his return over the past number of weeks is testament to the level of regard that the Ulster Rugby public have for him and rightly so. Skillful, physical, and a proven finisher with a knack of being in the right place at the right time, there's no doubt that Tommy has consistently been one of European rugby's best players over the past few seasons and he'll bring a lot of experience and flair to our backline."
Still a favourite at Ravenhill, Bowe said: "Obviously, I have mixed emotions. I'm sad to be leaving a club and a region that I have been proud to call my home for the last three years and that has improved me immeasurably both as a rugby player and as a person. I am indebted to the staff, coaches, management, team mates and fans of the Ospreys, for welcoming me so warmly and making my time here so special. That said, I am also delighted to be returning to Ulster, the Province I grew up wanting to play for and where my family live.
David Humphreys was a mentor of mine in my early playing days and we have remained friends during my time at the Ospreys. Hisvision for Ulster is impressive, with Ulster born players at the core of this vision. I hope to repay the IRFU and Ulster's faith in me by contributing to a team that is already delivering. The vibe at Ulster is undeniably positive. I've been training and playing with some of the Ulster boys during the Six Nations and there is a real energy and sense of anticipation as to what lies ahead for this Ulster team."
Exciting times at Ravenhill!