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'Jonny's homecoming is exciting': Bell swaps Worcester for Ulster

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Former Ireland midfielder Jonny Bell is the latest to signal his intention to move on from Steve Diamond’s Worcester, the defence coach agreeing to a three-year deal to take over as an assistant at Ulster from the soon-to-depart Jared Payne. Bell had previously worked at the province as an assistant between 2011 and 2015 before joining David Humphreys at Gloucester. 

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After five years at Kingsholm, he became the Glasgow attack coach for the 2020/21 season before switching back to the Gallagher Premiership last summer to join Jonathan Thomas’ Worcester. Ex-Wales back-rower Thomas left the Warriors in January with Diamond, who had arrived as lead rugby consultant in late November, assuming control and he will become director of rugby in the summer when Alan Solomons finishes up. 

Bell said: “I’m really excited to be going back to Ulster where it began for me all those years ago. Ulster are a top-class team, extremely well-coached, and with an exciting crop of young and experienced players.

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“They are competing consistently at the business end of domestic and European competitions. I’m thrilled to be working with Dan McFarland and his coaching team and look forward to adding my knowledge and experience to an already driven and dynamic group.”

Ulster head coach McFarland added: “Jonny’s homecoming to the province is an exciting prospect. Defence has been at the forefront of his game, both as a player and as a coach, and he has a wealth of coaching experience that will be hugely valuable to us. I know he will fit in well with our strong group of coaches, and we look forward to welcoming him back into the fold.” 

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Ulster have also struck a deal to keep ex-All Blacks back-rower Craig Newby on as skills coach for a further two years. He joined last year on a one-year deal from his director of rugby role at St John’s in Leatherhead. 

“It is also great that Craig has bought into what we are building on as a club, and has agreed to extend his time with us,” continued McFarland. “He has integrated seamlessly into our coaching team, and has already done an impressive job of further developing the skills of our senior and academy players.”

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Newby said: “My time at Ulster has been nothing but fantastic and when Dan and the club offered me an opportunity to stay on and continue to do what I love, it was a no-brainer to say yes. I’ve enjoyed the challenge from day one and learnt an extraordinary amount about my coaching from the players, the coaches, and the games.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

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