Lure of home sees assistant Barakat depart Ulster
Ulster have been dealt a blow with the news that highly-regarded assistant coach Joe Barakat will return to Australia in December to take up a position with the Western Force franchise.
Les Kiss recruited the defence specialist to his cause when he took over as director of rugby with the northern province at the start of last season, but has recognised that the lure of taking up a senior assistant coach role with the Perth-based side was too good to turn down for his fellow Australian.
Kiss will not appoint a replacement for the man who had responsibility for Ulster's defence and breakdown, preferring to fill the void from within his existing coaching staff of Neil Doak, Allen Clarke and Niall Malone.
Having spent eight years as Ireland's defence coach, the former rugby league international has plenty of expertise to call on.
Barakat will remain in his current role until Ulster's fourth European Champions Cup pool match against Clermont Auvergne before moving home to take up his new role.
"This opportunity with Western Force is a chance for me to take on a senior position at a Super Rugby franchise, while also bringing me back to be closer to my family, having spent a long time away from home," he said.
"Until I leave in December I will be fully committed to the Ulster cause and will do everything in my power to ensure that we are well-placed going into the business end of the season."
Meanwhile, Ulster full-back Louis Ludik has declared his intention to remain with the province beyond the end of the season.
The South African is in his third season at the province and will be Irish-qualified next season, but says contract negotiations have yet to open with the IRFU and Ulster.
"I would love to stay here. I've really enjoyed my time here," he said. "My contract is up at end of season, but it's a bit early to start negotiations yet."
Having spent much of last season on the sidelines, Ludik now has a real battle on his hands to earn a place in the star-studded Ulster backline this season.
"It's very tough but I'm just grateful for any opportunity I get to play around these talents," he said. "It's a privilege to play with them and I'm really enjoying it. When you get a chance, you try and get your hands on the ball as much as possible."