Banbridge coach Daniel Soper 'excited' to join Ulster backroom staff
Banbridge RFC and RBAI coach Daniel Soper will join Dan McFarland's backroom staff at Ulster next season.
The New Zealand native will take up the role of Skills Coach, adding to incoming Head Coach McFarland's panel of Defence Coach Jared Payne, Assistant Coach Dwayne Peel, Scrum Coach Aaron Dundon and Head Analyst Niall Malone.
The 41-year-old moved to Ireland in 1998 and played for both Banbridge RFC and Ballynahinch RFC. He also had spells playing for North Otago in New Zealand’s NPC and Padova in Italy.
But it's his success as a coach that has really made his name, assembling a most impressive CV. Soper was first of all part of the coaching team that guided ‘Hinch to the ‘grand slam’ of Ulster and All Ireland Cup and League success in 2009.
Then in 2010, Soper went out on his own, taking over at Banbridge, where he has brought in a steady upward trajectory in club fortunes, highlighted in two promotions in the All Ireland League to reach Division 1B for the first time. Soper will continue to be involved at Banbridge next season.
In the school game, Soper cut his teeth with Sullivan Upper before spending seven years at Ballyclare High School, during which time the school reached four Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Cup semi-finals and a first final in almost 40 years. Most recently, as Director of Rugby at RBAI, Soper collected three Schools’ Cup titles in a row from 2015 to 2017. He has also coached the Ulster U18 Schools squad.
“When I spoke to Bryn (Cunningham) and the other coaches, I was really impressed with the vision they have about how they want the team to play and where they want the club to go, and I feel my strengths are well suited to the role they want me to play in that," he said.
“There are a lot of the players that I have worked with over the years, from Michael (Lowry) and James (Hume) at ‘Inst’ in recent years, right back to Darren Cave who I coached at Sullivan, as well as all the players on the Ulster Schools and Banbridge teams.
“Also, as someone who has been a Season Ticket holder for the past number of years, I’ve always watched the development of players with a keen eye so it’s really exciting that I’ll now have the opportunity to help further that development.
“The prospect of working in the professional game is something that I am really enthused about, I expect it to be another step up but it’s a challenge that I’m really looking forward to.”
Ulster Rugby Operations Director Bryn Cunningham added: “From speaking to Dan, Jared and Daniel, as well as our current coaches, I know they are all really looking forward to linking up and getting stuck into the new season. This is a great opportunity for a revitalised coaching group to come in with fresh ideas and a renewed determination to take Ulster back to where we all want to be.
“There are very few coaches who can boast the level of success and respect that Daniel has in the local game and this, along with his undoubtable coaching aptitudes, will ensure he is a great addition to the setup here at Kingspan Stadium.”