Stand Up Magazine - Issue 38 - Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club

Issue 38 of Stand Up Magazine - Official Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club


F r e e t o U R S C M E M B E R S


Inside Issue 38: WRWC, Jonathan Brian Gibbes, Jean Deysel, URSC Facebook, AGM, Competition plus much more...

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Once again, In Sport are giving one lucky member the chance to WIN a terrific prize in their latest Stand Up competition. To be in with a chance of winning a NEW Ulster Rugby Performance Tee , simply answer the following question:

What Irish province did Ulster’s new signing Jean Deysel play for at the end of last season?

Email entries to putting “COMPETITION” in the subject field or post to: URSC Competition, C/O Ulster Rugby, Kingspan Stadium, 134 Mount Merrion Avenue, Belfast, BT6 0FT. *Usual rules apply. Closing date for entries is Friday 20th October 2017.

Chairman’s Welcome

Another new season dawns, and with it, well received new home and away kits; some significant new recruits both on the coaching and playing fronts; and, intriguingly, a new Pro

And the winner was: In our last In Sport competition in Stand Up, Jim Johnston correctly identified the retiring Roger Wilson as Ulster’s most capped player and won a new Ulster home shirt. URSC extends its thanks In Sport for their longstanding commitment in supporting our members by way of discounts and competition prizes. URSC members can claim 20% discount off ALL merchandise* in store. Speak to staff at time of purchase. *Terms & conditions apply. URSC merchandise is already at discounted price. You must be a member of the URSC to enter. Prize to be claimed from In Sport, Newtownards. Prize winners may be photographed; photographs may appear in future editions of Stand Up and/ or other URSC publications. Editor’s decision in all matters pertaining to this competition is final.

14 competition involving a couple of South African teams (well, we in Ulster know how to welcome South Africans!)

Jim collected his prize from Matthew Yeaman at the shop in Frances Street, Newtownards

How will this all pan out? Goodness knows!

What we do know is that it has been too long without a trophy for Ulster - so players, staff and supporters must all get together to MAKE ULSTER GREAT AGAIN!

Jonathan Bill (Chairman)


This time last year there was an article on the IRFU website looking for Ambassadors for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, writes URSC Committee Member Lynn Wilson , and I decided to apply, never thinking for a minute what I would need to do, or if I would even be chosen. My time as a Womens Rugby World Cup Ambassador

As I write this the tournament has just kicked off after 9 months of workshops, Trophy Tours and events to help promote Women in Rugby. On a crisp November Saturday morning last year, I travelled to Dublin to take part in a workshop, feeling strange as I wasn’t going to a match. We were directed to the tunnel where the bus drives the teams in on match day, then on to the President’s Suite. One of the first to greet us was Nora Stapleton the current Ireland Women’s 10 and we were immediately put at ease. The workshop lasted all day and was to find people who were suitable for the task in hand. We had a speed round where we had to sell ourselves to IRFU staff, and if anyone knows me I had no problem chatting about myself and rugby. It’s easy when you play because you have a certain passion that even the most ardent non-playing supporter would fail to understand. We also had group tasks to design a concept that could encourage more women and girls to take up our sport. The main aim was to get 2017 new players in 2017 . New friends and acquaintances were formed that day and I look forward to welcoming them to Kingspan on 26th August for the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, where Ireland will play irrespective of where they finish in the pool, but I hope it’s the girls in green

that will lift the trophy at around 9:30pm that day. [Ed’s note: Sadly it wasn’t to be as the French proved too strong in the Pool stages] So we hit the ground running and it started with Ireland in the 6 Nations, handing out leaflets and helping supporters around the stadium at Donnybrook for the French game. On the day we came out on top and looking forward to the England game on St Patrick’s weekend. On that wet and windy night I was with the trophy and being the brilliant prop that I am (HA HA HA), I had to make sure the gazebo didn’t blow over and knock the cup down (and yes, it was the actual cup and not a replica). I have taken part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Belfast, encouraged girls to try our wonderful sport, travelled with the Trophy Tour to various events, helped coached the next generation and met a few celebs along the way. I hope to see you all for the semis and final when I will be a volunteer on the day furthering connection to the tournament. I have enjoyed every minute of my time as a Women’s Rugby World Cup Ambassador, and will be sad to see the end. I see it as a huge honour to have been chosen to represent Ireland, women’s rugby and my club in ensuring that this is the best world cup ever.


In February of this year, Ulster announced that Jonathan Brian Gibbes - “Jono” , would be joining Ulster this season as Head Coach. To many, this was music to the ears.

Six years coaching at Leinster and three at Clermont had seen three titles in Europe, one in the Celtic League, one T14 in France and a raft of runners-up places. No one could doubt Jono’s coaching pedigree. Indeed, many have talked him up as some sort of rugby messiah for Ulster. At the end of pre-season, Jono spoke to Stand Up to help us get to know a little bit more of this giant New Zealander, and maybe find out what makes him tick. The obvious first question concerns someone living in the sunny south of France, coaching at a successful team, capable of competing on several fronts, with a massive budget and no restrictions by the union on foreign signings. What on earth would possess him to come to Ulster? His answer? “It’s a place I know, and a club I know well from my time at Leinster. I’ve always known it was a tough place for opponents to come and play. I’ve had some good battles in my time at Leinster. I knew it was a club with a proud history, a strong history and a strong character, and knowing Les (Kiss) and the vision he has for this club and where he thinks they can go, that’s kinda what sold it for me”. So if that’s how we got him here, has Ulster Rugby and Ulster in general, lived up to expectations? Jono admits that he’s been “surprised but not disappointed” revealing that “in the six years I was at Leinster, I’ve never actually been to Belfast other than the bus up and the bus back, so I’ve never really had a look round. During the pre- season I’ve had an opportunity to look around the greater area and I’ve been impressed. It’s been a really pleasant surprise, and the nature side of things of the whole province has been a pleasant surprise. Of course Jono isn’t the only new coach and while he has some experience of working with Les Kiss, there are other new partnerships being formed. So has that

On whether national team primacy was in danger of damaging the provinces, Jono was reluctant to criticise the IRFU. While acknowledging the difficulties between provincial and national interests, he pointed out the third part of the equation which is vital to both Ireland and the provinces, stating, “It’s a difficult balance for certain, and looks different depending on the side of the fence you sit on, whether provincial or international. For a rugby player, this would be the best place you’d want to be if you wanted to be a professional player, and international player for a long time. The central contracting system, whilst it has tensions, does at the heart of it, look after its players well.” Drawing on his experience in France (and previously in Dublin) perhaps gives him a different perspective, but he was quick to point out the positives for the Irish players as he added, “In the T14 in France, they have 14 teams and relegation in their league

and they’re not particularly interested in the national team, but here there’s

only 4 provincial teams for the union to work with so their ability to manage those can be quite stressful for

the provinces, but the closeness and the relationship is a real advantage to Irish rugby. I think the player knows he’s going to get well looked

been working? Jono seems comfortable as he explains, “As a coaching team we’re enjoying working together and a real positive is the cohesion between the five of us. That’s important with three new coaches – Les has obviously been in place and Niall’s experience and his perspective, has

really been beneficial for us. His insights that he has been able to offer have been really good. I think the combined effort of the five of us has started well, and the effort by the players has been fantastic, so the first little bit has been positive.”


after playing provincially here, and if he’s lucky enough to become an international player, the whole system will enable him to do that for a long time. That’s one of the real positives of the system here.” Here in Ulster, we have some very proud supporters, indeed some very traditional ones. Traditional in Ulster? Surely not! Some would be happy to support a team of 15 born, bread and buttered Ulster men. Stephen Ferris hasn’t gone that far, but has been quoted as being concerned over the lack of Ulstermen (actually born in Ulster) among the forwards. Does Jono have any sympathy with Mr Ferris’s point of view, or does he even care where a player hails from in this professional sport? “I certainly do care” stresses Jono. “What we are trying to do in Ulster Rugby is to provide a pathway for young kids, support along the way, good quality coaching, so there’s every opportunity for a young kid out there that plays in Ulster to become a professional Ulster player. That’s the point of us being here. I’m on one end of that, obviously, there’s a lot of other people involved in the steps along the way”. He goes on, “We have a responsibility to support our indigenous talent, to help them fulfil their international ambitions as well, but if that requires support by foreign and qualifying players, to give them the best opportunity to be internationals as well, that’s the nature of the professional game. Rugby is now a global game, it’s not as isolated as it was.” through? “To be honest I haven’t seen with my own eyes all of the players that are coming through the academy,” he confesses before continuing, “I’ve been here such a short time, but what’s impressed me is the academy staff up in our office as I can see how diligent they are. I know from the discussions we’ve had with them that they can see what we’re trying to do. What is important in an academy is that you have good staff, and I think we’re ticking those boxes with the guys we have involved. Willie’s been pretty good with my education of all things ‘Ulster’ [Willie Anderson], he’s been good, he’s helped me out and he’s a good man to have coffee with.” As mentioned in our opening, some see Jono’s appointment almost as messianic in rugby terms (no pressure then), and are expecting him to transform our pack and give them a hard edge that many think has been lacking in recent times. Is that fair comment or fair expectation though, and have we the players in place (in quality and numbers) for him to work with? “I can certainly assure you I’m not a messiah. We can knock that on the head pretty quickly,” he laughs. “Numbers-wise, that’s in the lap of the rugby gods. Injuries are part and parcel of rugby and that’s a bit out of our hands. There’s pressure on indigenous players and Irish qualified players, and if you’re one of those, you just hope you’re on the right side of that but if you’re not, somebody else gets a chance. I don’t know why there’s a perception [that Ulster’s pack isn’t hard enough] – We [Clermont] played here and got torn up as good as we got all year. Consistency is another question, but I certainly think the talent is there, the players are there, the resolve is there and the hunger is there, so maybe the question is about the consistency of getting that out.” So, has he seen anything of our academy set-up to encourage him yet about bringing these young kids

So, will the new coaching ticket bring new impetus to players and bring that consistency out? Jono hesitates before answering, “I think there’s lots of variables that can affect things. Sometimes it’s a different set of eyes looking at things, seeing the same problem or the same challenge, in a different light that provides a bit of stimulation. Sometimes a different set of eyes can reinforce what you’re doing, or an outside set of eyes reassures that what we are doing is good and so we keep going. That can provide impetus. It’s not as clear cut as, ‘new staff, that’s the solution’ or ‘whole heap of new players needed’. There’s nothing as simple as that.” And do the new players potentially shake up the established ones? Do coaches expect players, particularly experienced players, to contribute to coaching, or do the players do as instructed and play the way they are told? Jono is much quicker to answer this one, “All players contribute – Rory is massively experienced, of course but you work your way down the other end of the spectrum to someone like John Andrew, or Adam McBurney. You need to know their experience, what they are going through, and seeing and understanding that is a massive part of coaching. The old days of coaching down, in one direction, are gone, and luckily here there is a good wealth of experience throughout the team. It’s just as important though that young guys like John and Adam are able to express their understanding, and you have to draw on their experiences as much as Rory’s.”

Continued on page 6


Continued from page 5

With such an impressive coaching and playing CV, there are some obvious high points to the casual observer, but which ones meant most to the man himself? The response is immediate, “Playing, it probably was with Waikato [Air New Zealand Cup Final] in 2006” he says with obvious pride. “If you’re in a situation where you’re playing week-in, week-out with your mates and end up winning together as a group of friends, there’s something special about that. It’s your local team so it’s a great thing so from a playing point of view that would be one of my highlights. In coaching, winning the T14 in France is pretty high, simply because of what it costs to win. I think sometimes it’s just different experiences, not necessarily titles that are good. Leinster played Munster at Croke Park in a Heineken Cup semi-final and that was just a great experience. Some home games at Clermont, the atmosphere was incredible and those things are great to be a part of.” And were there disappointments? “You learn off the disappointments, so losing the 2015 T14 title against Stade Français was pretty bitter,” he recalls. “We lost two finals in Europe but I think we lost to the better team. Stade Français was tough to take because I’m not sure we played to our capability and I’m not sure they were better than us, they were just a bit more cohesive.” Ulster CEO Shane Logan (like many organisations) has placed a lot of emphasis on short term and long term goals in the past, so it seems almost inconceivable that the coaching staff won’t have at least some targets for the season and beyond. “No” , says Jono, “We started off with one goal as a coaching

team which was to make sure that our pre-season was the best it could be. As coaches we wanted to be clear and ensure the players understand that. End of season goals take care of themselves, I think. I don’t think there’s anyone involved in professional rugby who only wants to participate. I think we all want to win.”

Does Jono think then that the coaching staff shouldn’t be judged if Ulster fail to achieve certain targets? Indeed does failure even cross Jono’s mind? He ponders for a while before hesitatingly replying, “I honestly don’t know. If you walked in and saw the first six weeks of our pre-season, I think you would be pretty proud of what everyone’s done. That’s the first point that we had, we now look to the next six weeks and then we’ll see....” Six weeks ... six months ... maybe more ... time will tell if Jonathan Brian Gibbes is indeed a rugby messiah ... or just another naughty boy!

In the meantime, welcome aboard Jono – we look forward to the ride.


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He may have been Red Deysel at Munster, but Jean is now 100% WHITE DEYSEL, and is hopefully the fuel injection* Ulster needs. Stand Up met with Jean just White Deysel – Driving Ulster Forward

What attracted him to Ulster? I will maybe mention the weather once. I’ve been here for a while, and it’s not like home, but it’s not that bad and not as bad as all the other South African guys are going on about it. Ulster is a club that I have heard prior to the pre-season friendlies, and this is what he had to say on: a lot of, because there were so many guys from the Sharks that played here. I started off when B.J. Botha, Johann Muller, and Ruan were still at the Sharks. We played together back home and when they came here, because we’re mates, I followed their careers and they followed mine. I always heard great things said about the club. Stefan Terblanche was another – Stef is a phenomenal character who also had a lot of good things to say about Ulster.

I was young when I started playing with them and I have a lot of respect for them, and take to heart what they say. When the opportunity came for me to come to Ulster, it was almost a no-brainer. I saw Stef about a week before I left to come here and he said he was really jealous about me coming and he wished he was in my shoes. It’s only pre-season and I don’t think there is anywhere you will find a pre-season that you will enjoy, because it’s hard work. Hard work needs to be put in though, to build towards the season and get up to pace. It’s all new but I have friends from back home who have made it a little bit easier. Robbie (Diack) has been How the Munster - South Africa - Ulster transition has been?

helping me a lot – we live next to each other, so the transition has been a lot easier than I thought it would be.

*Did you REALLY think we would pass up on using puns like these? This is Stand Up, not a real magazine!


How his family has settled in? It was easy convincing my wife to come as she is very good friends with Weihahn’s wife and Louis’ wife (Weihahn Herbst & Louis Ludik) from back home when we played at the Sharks. When I mentioned the chance to come to Ulster, the first thing she asked was, “is that were Denise and Chame are?” and she immediately said she was happy to come. Family is doing very well and really enjoying it, but my boy just can’t understand why he has to wear shoes all the time but he’ll quickly realise when the winter sets in. [That’s twice Jean!] His preferred position? I prefer to play 6 – that’s the position I’ve played the most back home (in S.A that’s a 7 – we’re the other way round there) but I’m comfortable at 7 as well. I have also played a bit at 8 so I’m comfortable at all three. Given the choice I’d rather play 6. I’m still pretty new to Ulster Rugby though so at the moment I just want to get on the park and play 6, 7 or 8. When I was first at Munster I didn’t think I would enjoy the Pro 12 (as it was) as much as I did, but now I just want more of it and if it’s going to be at 6, 7 or 8, I just can’t wait. His opinion, on Ulster’s squad and ability to win matches? I really do think we have a great mix of players – forwards and backs. From personal experience it’s not fun when you pull your head out of a scrum and you have to run backwards because the backs didn’t give you forward momentum. We do have great backs, so if they can give us forward momentum off set-piece, I’ll do my best off 2nd or 3rd phase. I’m very excited about this season. We do have a good mix and not just in loose forwards, but also in youth and experience in props and locks, so when you add in the experience and plans of Jono (Gibbes), I think Ulster will find it easier to attack this year. His aims and ambitions with Ulster? I have been giving this some thought, and being in my first season, I just want to find my feet in the team and get the respect of the guys. You respect each other as people, but where you get the respect as a player, is on the field. For me, for the first part of the season is to go out there and earn the respect of the guys, the fans and everybody at the club. I’m gonna take it a little bit at a time.

His experiences in Japan and Ireland I must say that the last 6 months for such a short space of time has been one of the highlights of my career. We’ve been to Japan (with Toyota Verbltz) but that was a very difficult period for me and my family, with the language barrier. You have to have a translator everywhere you go, but the last 6 months at Munster and Ulster has been so easy because everyone speaks English and it’s easy to be yourself, it’s easy to go to the shops, to order a coffee, and communicate with people. In a different culture with a different language, it’s harder to be yourself. It was difficult too for my wife and family – I got support but she couldn’t go to the shops because no one understood her. I’m looking forward to the next years of my life, my family is happy and I’m in a good space. Braai, Ulster Fry, or Sushi? Braai – definitely [we’ll ask again in a year or two, to see if you can learn the right answer by then] Most satisfaction from; a big carry, a bone-crunching tackle, a turn-over, scoring a try, or a team win? Definitely a team win. For me winning is everything. I can’t even lose a board game to my wife – that’s why we don’t even own one board game at home. Winning is everything to me and I’ll fight as hard as I can to win whether that’s a rugby game, a card game or whatever it is. I enjoy carrying the ball, I enjoy smashing into people. There aren’t a lot of jobs that you get to run into people and smash each other on the weekend and next day just go back to normal. I really enjoy that physical part of the game but winning is the goal. always said that some time before I’m done, I need to drop a goal, so let me find my feet here first, but possibly in the next year or two, I’ll maybe do a drop goal. Did you not do that at Sharks? [still laughing] I tried, but I missed! Jean I suspect that the respect you want is already earned. We look forward to seeing your physicality, week-in, week-out. We hope you get the wins that mean so much to you (and us), and we can’t wait to see you dropping a goal for Ulster. Thanks for your time in speaking to the supporters’ club through Stand Up. Most of all though, we wish you and your family well, for however long you are with us. Kicking aspirations? (Can he play 10?) [Jean laughs almost hysterically] I


The Annual General Meeting took place at Kingspan Stadium on Tuesday 6th June at 7.30pm. Chairman Jonathan Bill opened the meeting by welcoming the 64 attendees and introducing the committee. URSC AGM 2017

Apologies from members, sent in advance and received on the night, were recorded. The Minutes of the 2016 AGM were available to those attending and had been previously distributed to members in Stand Up in September 2016. Jonathan Bill invited the members to adopt the minutes as an accurate record of the meeting. This was

upload the magazine to a server and email a link to members for them to download for themselves. To this end, we are considering including on the membership registration form next season a check-box asking members if they wished to receive Stand Up electronically or as hard copy? The choice would then be up to the members with both options available and potential savings in printing and postage would then be dependent upon the numbers of members who opted for either. In conclusion , three proposals were put forward and voted on, with over 66% of the vote in favour of limiting any increase to no more than £2 for adult members, £1 for junior members, and £5 for family membership (i.e. fees to be set no higher than £12 adult membership, £6 junior membership and £30 family membership). The committee agreed to take this on board when considering membership fees, although it was made clear that it was by no means certain that any increase would be required. Jonathan Bill then presented his Chairman’s Report on the past year. In a disappointing season on the pitch, Jonathan thought the URSC provided a pretty decent showing off the pitch. Membership had been similar to last season, topping at 1150. Highlights of the year included the Barbecue at Dromore RFC, three “Meet the Players” nights, one “Meet the Ref ” night with David Wilkinson. We also ran 4 buses to away matches (Navan, Galway, Limerick & Dublin), only to be rewarded with 4 defeats. Thanks were expressed to the members for supporting these events in increasing numbers. Jonathan also highlighted the great fellowship and hospitality Ulster supporters had received on away trips, particularly in Bordeaux, Clermont and Exeter, and encouraged members to consider future away trips. In the Pro 12, The Treviso & Parma are also excellent destinations for travellers. Awards and presentations continued with the Club making the second contribution of £2,000 to the Ulster Women’s Performance Programme with the aim of increasing Ulster representation in the Irish Rugby World Cup squad, and the Jack Kyle Academy Bursary of £2,500 was awarded to Rob Lyttle . Player of the Month Awards (sponsored by Crystal Clear Glass Engraving) were awarded to Sean Reidy, Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale. The Player of the Season Award was won by Ruan Pienaar and Jonathan took the opportunity to thank long term sponsor of this award, McNeillys Jewellers for their past support, and to thank and highlight new sponsor Gardiner Brothers Jewellers for their agreement to take this forward in the future. From this season, not only does the player of the season win a superb Ernest Borel Swiss watch, but one member who votes for that player will also win a similar prize. The Player of the Season also wins a Stan Dupp Cartoon, suitably inscribed by Club President Willie John McBride – and as Jonathan pointed out, is it any wonder that the URSC award is the one that the players most want to

URSC Chairman Jonathan Bill

duly proposed by Ian Logan, seconded by Chris Simmons and passed unanimously by the meeting.

Yvonne Bell presented her Treasurer’s Report for the calendar year January to December 2016. She reported the major income and spending commitments of the year resulting in a net deficit on the year of £1544.39. Yvonne answered questions on the report including the net loss which was mainly due to one-off capital expenditures (including a new computer for the Membership Secretary). The adoption of the Treasurer’s report was proposed by Charlie Martin, seconded by Ruth Kohner and agreed by the meeting. membership. The suggestion of raising fees had been put forward by one member at the 2016 AGM and the committee had undertaken to look into the matter at the request of that meeting. Jonathan reminded members that under the Club’s constitution, the setting of fees is solely at the discretion of the Committee, so no voting motion to the AGM was required, but that the committee “shall not exceed any limit placed on it by full members voting at the Annual General Meeting” . He then presented a summary of the views of members received during the consultation period in which it was clear that the majority of members would like or accept a small or moderate increase if it was felt by the committee that this was necessary. There then followed a lively debate about what such a limit should be, and some opinions on how any extra income might be spent if that occurred. Debate included the future way in which Stand Up Magazine could (or should) be distributed, as printing and in particular postage costs are such a major part of the Club’s expenditure. It was acknowledged that not everyone is computer savvy, but that e-reading is becoming more widespread. Ken Arthur informed the meeting that we had been investigating methods of distributing the magazine electronically. This has been mooted in the past, but even now there is no easy or economical means of emailing a large attachment to a mass audience, but that it would probably be preferable to Jonathan then moved on to the results of the Membership Fees Consultation which was entered into with the


Les Kiss drew the ballots and presented the prizes for these lucky winners

Ulster Rugby Director of Rugby, Les Kiss

win? Other highlights included the cooperation between Ulster Rugby and URSC on discounted tickets to members for the Barbarians v Fiji match in November which resulted in a match shirt signed by the entire Barbarians squad being donated to URSC. This shirt, subsequently mounted and framed was offered by the club to be won by one URSC member with the draw taking place at the AGM later that evening. Mention was also made of the club being able to acquire 200 excellent tickets across the Autumn and 6 Nations home Internationals – a real tangible benefit of URSC membership, and that 3 issues of Stand Up magazine had been distributed to members through the year. On the down side, Jonathan highlighted the quite shameful way that Ruan Pienaar had been treated by the IRFU and in particular by the apparently “busy” David Nucifora - in stark contrast to Ruan’s own disappointed, but dignified reaction. Jonathan went on to add that this Supporters Club rejects the reasons for IRFU’s decision and notes with both concern and some anger the IRFU’s preferential treatment of Isa Nacewa. Additionally the IRFU’s agreement to enable Jaco Taute to firstly replace, and then join, Frances Saili in the same Munster team compares somewhat unfavourably with their unwillingness to provide any temporary cover for Marcell Coetzee. Allowing Anton Perskevili to be a tackle bag for a month at Ulster earns the IRFU no kudos in this province. Sadly too, Jonathan noted with sadness the untimely deaths of two stalwart supporters during the past season. Ruth Cave , mother of Darren, a paid up member and supporter of our Club for many years; and the players’ favourite super fan, the inspirational Jamie Donaldson . In concluding, Jonathan thanked his fellow committee members for their work with particular mention to Mark Hunter and Iain Campbell who are stepping down and then went appealed to members to consider putting themselves forward as committee members or simply volunteering as helpers in any of a variety of capacities. Questions to the Committee followed and these included a request to record in the minutes this meeting’s displeasure of the IRFU’s decisions which resulted in an uneven playing field for Ulster rugby. Despite Jonathan having already highlighting this in his Chairman’s report, the strength of feeling of the meeting was apparent, and duly noted and minuted.

One member (Chris- Simmons, himself a fantastically experienced and passionate away traveller) also asked about improved access to travel and accommodation information for away travellers, and offered his assistance in this matter. In response, Stew McDowall informed the members about a new initiative attempting to set up a “Pro 12 Forum” with contributions by supporters of all clubs for the benefit of other fans in the League. It is URSC’s intention to engage fully with this initiative and Stew welcomed Chris’s offer to add his experience and help further with this. A suggestion was received that URSC might facilitate away travellers with flags for away fixtures as these were in high demand by opposition supporters. It was pointed out that URSC has previously worked with UR to meet such requests, but that we would look to see if this could be improved in the future. One member noted that the costs of tickets for the Barbarians matches seemed unduly high. In response Jonathan noted that ticket prices were outside the remit of URSC but that the feedback would be passed on to Ulster Rugby. Elections to the Committee followed, and there being room on the committee, and nominations having been duly submitted, Jonathan Bill, Niki Wild and Lynn Wilson were reappointed without the need for a vote. (Ken Arthur, Yvonne Bell, Stephen Johnston, Stewart McDowall and Colin wild remain on Committee for one more year). Under Any Other Business , it was gratifying to the committee to receive a vote of thanks from the members for their hard work. Jonathan then concluded the formal part of the meeting by repeating his appeal for help from members. With the formal business meeting concluded, Les Kiss then came forward and drew the winners of the Framed Barbarians Shirt competition and the Player of the Season members’ prize watch draw, before addressing the members on the season past, coaching and playing squad plans for the new season and then answering questions.


We also reported that part of the new sponsorship, all those URSC members who voted for the winning player would be entered into a draw to win an identical Ernest Borel watch! That draw was made by Les Kiss at the URSC AGM on 8 June, and Scott Moore was the lucky winner. Scott received his prize from Philip and Iain Warke of Gardiner Brothers at the pre-season friendly match v Wasps at Kingspan Stadium in August. Scott expressed his delight on receiving his prizes saying , “I feel very fortunate that my entry for last year’s Player of the Season competition was chosen and that as a result I became the lucky recipient of these fabulous prizes. I will treasure both, especially given the unique connection to a player whom I admired so much. I would also like to express my appreciation to Gardiner Brothers Jewellers, the sponsors of these fabulous prizes”. In addition to the magnificent watch, Scott also received a framed copy of the Stan Dupp cartoon presented to Ruan – this one signed by the man himself, thanking Scott for voting for him. Many readers may be aware that in years gone by, Gardiner Brothers had a strict trade card entry policy due to their heritage as a wholesale Jeweller. In more recent times however, due to changing shopping patterns, that policy has been relaxed, but their pricing policy has remained the same, allowing you to purchase a complete range of products at wholesale prices which are between 30% and 50% less than the manufacturer’s suggested selling price. To find out more, visit URSC would like to thank Gardiner Brothers Jewellers for their generous sponsorship of our Player of the Season Award, and Stan Dupp for his unique artworks which are so coveted by the players. In the last issue of Stand Up we reported that Ruan Pienaar had been voted the URSC Player of the Season, and in addition to the bronze trophy had also picked up an Ernest Borel Swiss watch courtesy of new sponsors Gardiner Brothers Jewellers of Waring Street, Belfast. Player of the season – URSC members’ prize



Big Ballot Once again URSC will be offering some terrific prizes for our big Ballot in support of the Jack Kyle Academy Bursary. One book of tickets has been included in your membership pack. If you would like more, please come along to our info point on match days, or you can purchase online at our website shop. If you do not want to buy the tickets you have been sent, we would be glad to receive these back so that we can sell to other would-be buyers. Ticket sales will close on 17th December, so please return stubs and ticket money by this date to ensure you are in the draw. The draw will be on 20th December. For details of prizes, please check the website regularly for updates, as we add to the list through the season. Competition winner Congratulations to Shaun Fleck who won our end of (last) season competition to win a framed, autographed shirt from the Barbarians match at Kingspan last opponents that night and was lucky enough to have his name drawn from all correct entries by Les Kiss at the URSC AGM in June. Travel The first away interpro of the season will be against Connacht on Saturday 23rd December . URSC will organise a coach trip to this fixture if there is sufficient demand to do so. If you are interested in this day trip to the Sports Ground in Galway, watch out for details on our website and Face Book nearer the time and let us know if you are wanting to travel with us to help us gauge demand. For any queries, email November. In a competition with one of our highest number of entries yet, Shaun correctly identified Fiji as the Baa-Baas

Membership Numbers URSC membership for the season opened on 28 July and at the time of going to print, was close to 600, with numbers continuing to grow daily. Thanks to all of you who have joined up so far, whether renewing or having joined for the first time. Ulster Rugby Family Fun Day Membership launch coincided with the Ulster Rugby Family Fun Day and as incentive to join early, we had a draw from those who joined up on the first day. Rob Lyttle drew the winners and congratulations go to Wright Holland (who won a tee shirt signed by Andrew Trimble), Terry Whiteside (cap signed by Andrew Trimble), Peter Thompson (cap signed by Chris Henry), Mark Hunter and Michael Gray (both, Ireland sweat bands)

Info Point. Don’t be a stranger now – come along and bring the kids – they’ll love it.

International Tickets Once again this season, URSC has availed of International Tickets for the Autumn Internationals and Six nations. The draw for the Autumn matches will be made in early October from all who joined by 30 September and opted for inclusion in the right-to-buy ballot. Once again, the first name out of the draw for each match will win a pair of FREE tickets for that match. Keep an eye on your inbox after the draw has been made if you are hoping to attend Ireland v South Africa, Fiji and Argentina. Bar Passes This season, URSC has again received 6 bar passes for the Spirit of 99 Bar for each home match at Kingspan. These are available FREE to URSC members on a match by match basis upon application. To apply for use of these, please email your request to stating the match you wish to receive for and the names of users and number of passes you would like. Please note, passes are to be used one per person and are not available to under-18s. The committee will endeavour to distribute these equitably among those who apply, and availability will not necessarily be on a first-come first served basis. Repeat applications by the same people are welcome, and if no other applications are made for the desired match(es) will be met, but preference may be given to those who have not availed of this benefit of membership before. Abuse of the bar passes will disqualify for future matches.

Match Night The URSC Information Point will again be at Kingspan on match nights. Situated directly opposite the door of the Kukri shop at the rear of the Memorial Stand, the info point can be used to renew your membership, find out about upcoming events, sign up for travel or even to get a selfie and/or an autograph from one of the Ulster players that regularly visit the


As August draws to a damp close and September begins, we enter another season of Pro 12 14 Rugby. Some are full of hope, some are still lamenting lost heroes. Some are unhappy with the summer signings, some aren’t. Some love the new away shirt but aren’t that keen on the home effort. How do we know this? Well from the USRC Facebook group of course!

URSC Facebook Group

Stand Up comes out every 3-4 months. A lot can happen between issues but you don’t need to miss anything if you follow the URSC on social media. The 10,000 Facebook Group posts across the close season underline this! We currently have a vibrant and popular group with about 6,600 members. This is growing all the time. 5 out of 6 members are active in the group.

The group attracts posts all week, but during close season we’ve seen Friday evenings from 8pm the most popular posting times (Ravenhill withdrawal symptoms or post-work ale, I’ll let you decide)!

As you can tell, Facebook have just introduced a statistical tracking option for Group Admins. We do love a good statistic here in URSC HQ so we thought we’d share with you. We can also track the most prolific posters in any given period. We might just start having a “Poster of the Month” award. You never know. If you are already a member of the group then please keep visiting us. If you aren’t yet a member it couldn’t be easier to join. Just log into Facebook, search for Ulster Rugby Supporters Club, and click apply to join. If we like the look of you one, of the Admins will approve your application next time they log in. (In case you are interested, the Admins are all members of the URSC Committee). The group is open for anyone to ask to join, but there is always a lot of posting about URSC-member specifics, such as away travel, member offers and any upcoming events. We are a generally friendly bunch, and there is some decent banter. All we ask is you read the pinned conduct post when you join so that we all can participate in a friendly, constructive manner. If you need anything from the URSC, the fastest way to get a response is to generally post something on the Facebook group. If all else fails then send a Facebook personal message to one of the team:- Lynn Wilson, Yvonne Bell, Colin Wild, Niki Wild, Stephen Johnston or myself, Stew McDowall. We don’t bite and will usually respond pretty quickly. Just don’t try to ask Jonathan Bill or Ken Arthur, who are a pair of Luddites and don’t know what Facebook is. Someone asked them about a Face Book a couple of weeks ago and they were last seen down at the public library trying to borrow it. Look forward to seeing you in the group!

Members are from the usual hotspots around Belfast, but the 12 members in Fiji stand out (and Stand Up)!

There’s a 3 to 1 ratio of male vs female in the posts we get, with the posters being generally 20-50 years of age.



The start of a new season was on the horizon a few months ago, but to be honest I did not have much appetite for it, even with all the hype around a new Celtic League competition writes Richard Mulligan in his latest Mulligan’s Musings .*

The summer was a hectic month for sport with some big events, among them the Irish Open golf at Portstewart, the British & Irish Lions series and the UEFA Under-19 Women’s Championship finals in Belfast. Then throw in the Rugby Women’s World Cup and trying to spend a bit of time with the family so they remember who I am - the start of another rugby season was not a priority. The Stand-Up editor will confirm that lack of appetite, as when he initially asked me for my regular slot I said if you are stuck, okay then. He cajoled me with some kind words and here I am. But then in the week just ended, as I write this with the Rugby Women’s World Cup knockout stages in Belfast just ending, a new domestic season in clubland kicking off and the launch of the revamped Guinness PRO 14 in Dublin - I suddenly got excited again and I ask myself where to start… British & Irish Lions tour - a short summary: We gave the tourists little chance of beating the All Blacks on their patch. Warren Gatland will end up in charge of the All Blacks once Hansen goes. Iain Henderson never got the Test time he deserved, Rory Best either. While the tour was exciting, the standard of rugby on display was low. The Lions should have done the honourable thing and kicked for touch and not for the posts in the final Test. Go for it! A chance to win a Test series in New Zealand, a chance to really roar the Lions brand. Nope let’s just “meow”, take the points and a draw which ensures it is a drawn series. Of course, if Owen Farrell had not gone for the kick and the Lions had lost, we all know what the media would have been saying. Roll on 2021. Ireland summer Tour to USA and Japan: Aside from the woeful commentary on EirSport I was grateful to them to actually be able to see the games. Ireland ticked the boxes. John Cooney looks comfortable at that level and with a bit more game time with Ulster will push his case behind Conor Murray. Luke Marshall was always under-rated. Let’s hope he gets the chance again in November. Joe Schmidt has a bit more strength in depth, but Joe Carberry and Simon Zebo are still overrated! Rugby Women’s World Cup: I am sure many URSC fans were at Kingspan Stadium or Queen’s University for the knockout games, or indeed, even in Dublin for group games. What a fantastic event it was and wonderful to see it in Ireland. The Irish girls may not have lived up the expectation of the public, but for those who follow it a bit more regularly than going out for a day and having a pint in the fanzone and then the stands, it perhaps was what it was. Unfortunately the spotlight switched to the coaching staff when the knockout stage reached Belfast. Observations: The four teams in the semi-finals were certainly four of the best in the competition, with Canada who took fifth, probably unlucky not to be contesting higher than the fifth place play-off against Australia, which they won. England, New Zealand, France and the USA, along with Canada and Australia are probably at a different level to the other six competing. Hong Kong were there

by default and the way they were demolished did nothing for their confidence. Yes Ireland were former

I personally think it is good to have a bit of a change in the competition, and conferences was probably the only way to do it. It offers a new travel venue for fans (even if it is a bit costly), it goes back to the good old days of touring rugby when you just do not fly in and out to play games, and it brings freshness along with new challenges.

What of Ulster Rugby? The season ended abruptly last time around, no knockout stages and

Grand Slam champions and beaten semi-finalists at the last World Cup, but the women’s game is still in its infancy. It was clear to see on Saturday after the loss to Wales, the anguish the squad were feeling, not just at perhaps underperforming as fifth seeds going into the tournament and finishing up eighth, but being the host nation and feeling they had let their public down. Three years ago there were about nine clubs in Ulster with women’s teams attached to them. This season there are 19. There is growth there and it has to be encouraged. The World Cup being in Ireland as it was may encourage more players. Perhaps we should all help it by attending a few club games as well as provincial and international matches. Finals Day on Saturday was memorable. France against USA for third place produced a thrilling game. Interesting to note that there were about four scrums in the entire game as the teams moved the ball about quickly and skilfully. And the final - wow. England and New Zealand put on a great display. Thoughts have now turned to Ireland hosting the men’s 2023 World Cup - after two days of the women’s version in Belfast, can you imagine how fantastic that would be. And Ireland have a really good chance of winning the rights to host it. Definitely not time to retire the pencil and notepad just yet! And so to the new Guinness PRO 14. Excited? As I said I had not really given it the attention others had, with so many diversions elsewhere. But when I arrived home - this is going to be big. The Celtic League is going global. It is history in the making, the Northern v Southern Hemisphere. Ulster the first club to play against one of the South Africans. It’s historic! The Cheetahs and the Kings will bring a new style, brand and culture to this competition - something which was probably needed. Interestingly, and some of you may recall this. Way back when Alan Solomons was coach of Ulster, at a press conference a journalist asked him to shed some light on the suggestion in a paper that morning about the possibility of South African teams joining the then Celtic League. When Solly replied he knew nothing about it, the reporter suggest he ask yours truly to explain, as it was all over the back of the Newsletter! I will park that one there. in Dublin for the launch and saw the promotional video, spoke to the Cheetahs and Southern Kings representatives - it suddenly hit

there were cries of crisis all around Ravenhill Park and further afield. The summer of discontent has passed perhaps. It is all about new arrivals. John Cooney, Jean Deysel and of course that most superb acquisition of Christian Lealiifano to name but a few on the playing front and of course the backroom team has a few changes too.

Director of Rugby Les Kiss has perhaps got a couple of pebbles out of his shoe since his arrival. Jono Gibbes and Dwayne Peel are his new coaching team along with Aaron Dundon, so can we expect a change of fortunes? Pre-season losses against Wasps and Northampton Saints have not perhaps filled everyone with great hopes, but they were friendlies and have to be treated as such. Conceding 13 tries in two games, however, is a bit of a concern and perhaps on the back of last season it is difficult to feel the same level of expectation that we might normally do at this time. The strength in depth of the squad will become apparent over the next few weeks when Ulster go into the PRO 14 without some of their key players due to player welfare management or injury - although the profile of the latter is much better than it has been for a while. The fixture list at the start of the campaign is mixed. Champions Scarlets are due to visit in Round 3 when players are due to return, but with Treviso, Zebre and Connacht among the early hit-outs, one would expect a start similar to last season - flying high. First up though is the Toyota Cheetahs, one of the newbies from South Africa. They were impressive in the Currie Cup on the weekend and from chatting to their director of rugby, Rory Duncan, they are expecting great things while meeting the challenges of the competition. It is an historic occasion for Ulster and one we all look forward to being a part of. However, performances will be watched carefully as we wait hopefully for our expectations to be lifted.

Keeping the Faith and still Standing Up for the Ulstermen! Enjoy the season.

*Mulligan’s Musing are an opinion piece and may or may not represent the views of the URSC, or indeed, any, some or all of its members!

Pictures courtesy of The News Letter.


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