John Afoa to leave Ulster for Gloucester

Province must now enter talks with IRFU over recruiting a foreign scrum expert for the position

Ulster’s   John Afoa

Ulster’s John Afoa

Thu, Dec 5, 2013, 01:00

Tloucester appear to have head-hunted the highly valuable services of former All Black tighthead prop John Afoa from Ulster.

The province’s director of rugby David Humphreys must now enter discussions with the IRFU about recruiting a foreign scrum expert for the position as soon as possible.

The alternative is to trust in current Afoa understudies Declan Fitzpatrick (30) and Ricky Lutton (27). Fitzpatrick, who did impress off the bench for Ireland in November, has a long history of injury. Afoa, capped 36 times by New Zealand before arriving at Ravenhill after the 2011 World Cup, has struggled to settle into Northern Hemisphere life.

Despite contributing enormously on the field, the 30 year old made at least half a dozen trips to Auckland this past year after his family returned home.

That problem, either by the financial draw of the big Premiership club, bolstered by improved television money, appears to have been solved by leaving Belfast. “John has made a fantastic contribution to Ulster Rugby in the two years that he has been here,” said Humphreys

“He has been excellent for us on the pitch but has also been great for us off it, working along with Allen Clarke to develop the next generation of props for Ulster and Ireland.

“I know that with his wife and children in New Zealand, it has been a challenge for John to balance the needs of rugby and family, but he has handled that situation with the utmost professionalism.”

Afoa added: “It is good to have my long term future sorted out, however I still have a lot of rugby to play with Ulster. I have six months remaining on my contract with the province and I am focused on helping the guys win something this season.”

Meanwhile, England’s leading clubs will meet today in London following the decision of their French counterparts not to join the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup next season.