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McFarland rewards Ulster's cool kids for earning their stripes

Ulster boss Dan McFarland has rewarded the stripes-earning progress of two of his Champions Cup apprentices by handing them full-time deals for next season.

The former Scotland assistant inherited a mess in Belfast when he took over last summer from Les Kiss, who had been ousted some months earlier following his third successive failure to guide Ulster into the European quarter-finals.

However, McFarland has managed to revitalise an ailing squad by introducing a fresh wave of youngsters to the mix and having set up an appetising quarter-final date in late March against defending champions Leinster, he has rewarded a pair of new kids on the block for their part in the club’s uplifting run.

Neither 20-year-old back Michael Lowry nor 23-year old loosehead Eric O’Sullivan had featured in the first-team during the underwhelming Kiss reign, but the academy players both stepped up in Europe under McFarland and will now move on to senior contracts next season.

“This season has been exciting for the province to see so many academy players step up and perform so well,” said McFarland, who has also offered terms to James Hume, another academy player who has made a breakthrough to PRO14 level.

(Continue reading below…)

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“Eric, Michael and James are great examples of players who have seized their opportunities due to their hard work and as a result they have produced outstanding performances at PRO14 and Champions Cup level. All three are fully deserving of senior contracts.

“Kieran Campbell and his academy staff deserve a lot of credit for their work in identifying and nurturing talent in our local clubs and schools, enabling them to transition smoothly into the senior squad.

“We will continue to work hard to build our strength in depth and the development of local young players is central to our future.”

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McFarland rewards Ulster's cool kids for earning their stripes