Richie Murphy aiming to kickstart ‘huge job’ at Ulster by beating Leinster

Coach says his family’s ‘unique situation’ makes this week especially interesting

Though clearly pleased and relieved to have finally been handed the Ulster job on a full-time basis, Richie Murphy admitted that the opportunity brings with it demands and pressures that will have to be met head-on.

Having already been in charge of the squad since March, during which time he has navigated four wins from seven games, Murphy knows what is expected of him. But now that he has signed a two-year deal the former Ireland Under-20 head coach has the security to get fully stuck into the task of reversing the province’s decline.

“It’s nice to put it to bed and get on with the rest of the work,” said Murphy of being confirmed as Ulster’s new head coach at the start of the week.

“It’s an easy decision for me, anyway. Ulster is a huge rugby province and a big job within Irish rugby. It’s going to test me and it’s going to push me and I’m very happy to do that, and I feel I’m in the right place to do that.


“I’m really proud to take on the role and really looking forward to the challenge. It was a no-brainer, it was a great opportunity to work at the top of the game with a brilliant club.

“I was always drawn to it. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d been watching Ulster for the last number of years and thinking that I’d like to work there.

“I would have travelled up working with the [Ireland] Under-20s but also working with the national team doing skills work with the players.

“It’s a huge job. It’s well documented where Ulster are at this time.”

Murphy admitted that stepping away from the underage set-up wasn’t easy. “One of the toughest things I’ve had to do,” said the 49-year-old.

He has no time to waste. Ulster remain in contention for the URC playoffs, although they must chase their objective without Iain Henderson. The captain is out for the rest of the season due to toe surgery that will also force him to miss Ireland’s tour to South Africa.

After three straight URC victories, Murphy has brought the province to the cusp of the playoffs. They currently sit in sixth, five points ahead of ninth-placed Connacht. But now Ulster must negotiate their way through Leinster on Saturday at the Kingspan before finishing up at Munster in two weeks’ time.

Ulster should secure a quarter-final spot at the weekend if they see off what is expected to be a diluted Leinster selection in advance of next weekend’s Champions Cup final, and other results go their way. For all that, Murphy admits that the already difficult situation in tackling his home province has brought its own challenges at home in Bray.

“It was very weird,” he said, “I was sitting at home doing my preview on Leinster and my son [Ben], who plays in Leinster, walked in and was standing beside me.

“Even as I was getting my kit to come up to Ulster yesterday, my Ulster kit was hanging on the line and there was a Leinster kit beside it.

“It’s a unique situation. Ben has been training with the seniors this week and he may be involved, I’m not sure, he’s not telling me much anyway.

“It’s a great story, isn’t it?”

Not that Bray will remain home much longer.

“Come the first of June, nobody will be in Bray, we’ll all be somewhere else, so it’s strange times.

“My wife handed in her notice on Monday so she’s moving up to Belfast.

“It’s massive change. We’re currently trying to rent our house and we’re working on a house up here, it’s crazy at the moment,” Murphy said. Ben heads to Connacht next season and Murphy’s younger son, Jack, is expected to follow his father to Ulster.

While it looks as if Murphy’s support staff at the Kingspan will remain intact, the province are on the look out for a specialist scrum coach – John Fogarty has been filling in part-time – and a frontline outhalf.

Plenty in Murphy’s inbox, then, in addition to trying to get the better of Leinster this weekend.