Ulster’s returning internationals set to bolster league ambitions
The Irish province signs Peter Browne and Paul Rowley for next season
Ulster’s Ireland contingent of Iain Henderson, Jared Payne, Rory Best and Tommy Bowe do a selfie after the Six Nations Championship win against Scotland at Murrayfield last month. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.
There is a massive tariff for both teams in terms of the result, Connacht looking to retain a place in the top six of the Guinness Pro12, while for the visitors, level on points with Munster, their quest for a home semi-final in the playoffs would be facilitated appreciably by a victory.
Ulster’s prospectsTommy BoweJared PayneRory BestChris HenryPaddy JacksonRoger Wilson
The ridiculously unfortunate Stuart Olding, who suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury the last day, joins Andrew Trimble and Nick Williams on a list of players who won’t line again this season. Luke Marshall won’t be able to play until the Leinster match following a suspension.
On the issue of personnel Ulster announced that backrow-cum-secondrow Peter Browne and scrumhalf Paul Rowley will join the province from London Welsh during the summer. Browne (27) previously played for Newcastle Falcons (2007-10), Harlequins (31 appearances) before joining London Welsh for whom he’s lined out 12 times this season so far.
He has represented the England Students but is Irish qualified through his father, Leonard. Rowley (26) was a former member of the Munster academy before joining Plymouth Albion in 2011, making 41 appearances for the English Championship club. He’s played 17 times for Welsh this season.
Ulster team manager Bryn Cunningham explained: “Pete’s pedigree and age make him the perfect person to come into an environment that will encourage him to achieve his potential.
“After stints with Newcastle and Harlequins, this season with London Welsh has been a difficult time. However, he has still managed to put in some excellent performances, particularly at six.
“With a stature of 6’7”, it is his athleticism and ball carrying that really stand out, allied to being an excellent lineout option.
“Paul is another individual where the time seems right to make an impact at Pro12 level. Having gone through all the representative age-grade systems at Munster and Ireland, his pathway was blocked by a number of outstanding Munster scrumhalves.
“A few years in the English Championship honed his game getting regular first-team rugby.”
Of more immediate import is the game against Connacht. The nature of the challenge is captured in a couple of statistics: Connacht have lost just one match in Galway this season (16-13 to Edinburgh in January) and they have beaten Leinster and Munster there during that timeframe. They also lost narrowly, 13-10, to Ulster in Belfast.