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Ulster coach Bell 'excited' about Morgan signing

Jonny Bell and Aidan Morgan
Ulster defence coach Jonny Bell and new signing for next season Aidan Morgan [Getty Images]

Ulster defence coach Jonny Bell says he is "excited" by the prospect of Hurricanes fly-half Aidan Morgan turning out for the province next season.

Ulster confirmed on Monday that the 23-year-old, who played for the New Zealand Under-20 team but is qualified to represent Ireland through a Belfast-born grandfather, is to join on a two-year contract.

"It’s exciting for Aidan coming here. For all the younger players it’s good for them to know that we’re trying to build and bring some younger players in to bolster the more experienced players that we have.

“I’ve spoken to a few people out in New Zealand and they are very sorry to lose him. He is just going to get better and better.

"Obviously it’s going to be a change of environment and culture and style of rugby but he’s exciting, he wants to play fast-paced rugby so I think, the ground, the way Richie [Murphy, Ulster head coach] wants to play, is going to suit him."

“It’s going to take him a while to settle in but he's a young, enthusiastic, highly competitive player. He’s driven to do well and he’s taken a step. I can only see positives. I think it’s exciting for him and for us."

Ulster 'positive and fresh'

Ulster travel to face Munster at Thomond Park for their final regular game of the United Rugby Championship season on Saturday with their place in the end-of-season play-offs secured but qualification for next season's Champions Cup still to be confirmed.

Sharks' win over Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final last weekend means that the top seven in the URC will qualify for the 2024-25 Champions Cup.

However if the team that finishes eighth in the URC were to ultimately win the competition then only the top six would progress to the continent's premier club competition.

Ulster currently sit sixth in the standings, four points ahead of Edinburgh, Benetton and the Lions. Munster are top of the table.

Richie Murphy's side should be aware come their 17:15 BST kick-off time on Saturday what they need to do in terms of Champions Cup qualification.

“We’re positive. The boys had a good break last week after the Leinster game and they’re fresh and they’re excited about going down to Munster and putting the best reflection of themselves on the pitch and then we’ll find out who’s next for us [in the URC quarter-finals]," said Bell.

Munster 'a big challenge'

Munster team huddle
Munster are the defending URC champions [Inpho]

Ulster are on a run of four successive wins but must play their remaining matches of the season on the road as they seek to emulate Munster's achievement of lifting the title last season.

“It is a big challenge for us but you look at Munster last year, they had to come from seventh place and win away, away, away, so that’s where we are and that’s what it takes.

“We’re four games on the bounce and we’re getting better week on week so it’s probably a good time to be finding a bit of momentum, a bit of form. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game.

“We’re playing the defending champions in their own backyard but we’ve just got to make sure that we focus on our own game and don’t go down to Thomond Park, get slightly side-tracked by other things or you can come out on the wrong side of things.

“A brilliant challenge isn’t it. They’re all guns blazing going for that top spot and we want to get into that spot so it’s all to play for. It’s going to be tough but we’re very excited about it."

Coaching addition

Bell welcomed the appointment on Tuesday of Jimmy Duffy to the coaching staff for the next two seasons.

Duffy was assistant coach for much of Richie Murphy's tenure as Ireland Under-20 boss.

The Connacht native has spent the last two years with Perth-based Western Force in Australia after leaving the Ireland Under-20 set-up following the 2022 Six Nations.

Duffy's Ulster role will see him working alongside forwards coach Roddy Grant until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.

“He’s worked with Richie in the Under-20s before, is an experienced coach with Connacht and with Western Force. Jimmy’s coming in basically to assist Roddy, to help with some scrum stuff and with the forwards," explained Bell.

“With Dan’s departure we were short of forwards' coaches so he is coming in to fulfil that role."