Tuesday 23 May 2017

Wilson returns to Ulster with sights set on silverware

Roger Wilson. Photo: Getty Images
Roger Wilson. Photo: Getty Images

Ulster have confirmed the signing of Northampton No 8 Roger Wilson, who is returning to the province at the start of next season on a three-year deal.

The 30-year-old Belfast-born Wilson, who picked up an Ireland cap during the 2005 tour to Japan, will bolster an already talented back-row stable.

Wilson made his Ulster debut in September 2003 against the Ospreys and was Ulster's Player of the Year in 2007, before moving to Northampton in the summer of 2008 and he has consistently been part of the Saints' starting team.

Moving back home, Wilson still garners hopes of adding to his international appearances, but believes that Ulster are now a genuine force in Europe.

"The last couple of seasons have shown that Ulster are a club that can compete and compete to win things," he said. "They're now considered one of the top European teams and that they're genuine contenders for silverware.

"Ulster have a lot of strength and depth in the squad now, particularly in the back-row. They don't just rely on picking a strong side, but have excellent players who can back up those who are starting a particular game and can make an impact from the bench.

"That is a very important thing for a squad, it keeps everyone competing for places."

Ulster boss Brian McLaughlin, who coached Wilson when both were at Royal Belfast Academical Institution at the turn of the century, says it is a good capture for Ulster.

"It's great that we have Roger back with us," said McLaughlin. "He has been playing consistently and exceptionally well for Northampton and it is a great fillip for us.

"Personally, it's great to have one of my own back, as I taught Roger at school and worked with him right through age-group rugby. It is now a matter of making sure we have an even stronger squad for next year and we will have look at our resources to facilitate Roger.

"When you've a player with an Irish passport playing in England, obviously he will always come on your radar and it is players like this that we want to get here," said McLaughlin, who is ready to bring in Ian Whitten as the only change for Saturday's make-or-break Heineken Cup trip to Clermont.

"It is a shame for Darren (Cave) as he was playing so well for us. But we just have to get on with it. We will assess things later in the week, but certainly Ian came on for Darren last week and played extremely well."

Ulster have never won in France, so McLaughlin feels the time is right to get another monkey of their backs.

"From my coaching point of view, last week's win over Leicester was right up there with the best," explained McLaughlin. "It was a credit to Johann (Muller) and the team, who were simply outstanding. But the key thing now is that we have to move on from that now. We have to produce an even better performance in France on Saturday or all that effort will be wasted.

"There are a lot of permutations being bandied about, but we are only interested in one -- guaranteeing that we get a home draw in the quarter-final and to make sure of that we have to win on Saturday. Simple."

squad in factfile

Irish Independent

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