Ulster squad named for new season as Kitshoff to join after RWC

Another pre-season is well underway for Ulster, with Toulouse among the challenges on Dan McFarland's radar.
Another pre-season is well underway for Ulster, with Toulouse among the challenges on Dan McFarland's radar.

Ulster Rugby have named a 45-man squad for the upcoming season, with newcomers Steven Kitshoff and Zimbabwe-born Dave Ewers the sole inclusions that are ineligible for Ireland.

Kitshoff, a 2019 Rugby World Cup winner and a world renowned loosehead prop, was originally announced in November 2022. He replaces Scotland international Rory Sutherland, who had largely disappointed for Dan McFarland's side last season.

The ex-Stormers man will join after the conclusion of South Africa's Rugby World Cup campaign in France, and he will face some of his new teammates when Ireland meet the Springboks in Paris on September 23rd.

Ewers, meanwhile, is a direct replacement for fellow project player Duane Vermeulen. Predominantly a number eight, he can play across the backrow, having done so in his 230 plus appearances for the Exeter Chiefs.

Another prop, James French, graduated from the Munster academy, where he played until a short-term move to Australia in March. The 24-year-old former All-Ireland shotput champion will provide much needed cover at tighthead, with Tom O'Toole seemingly in Andy Farrell's Ireland plans.

Head coach McFarland made clear his side's hunger for trophies, as he welcomed the three new signings to Kingspan Ravenhill:

“This group of players and support staff have worked extremely hard over the last few years, putting together league performances and results we can be proud of, but there is a bigger goal driving us.  

“It’s inevitable there are challenges along the way, but we will be stronger for having come through them together as a collective.

“Our ambition in the new season remains to win silverware, and we have youth and experience from both our Player Pathway and strong signings for the 2023/24 season. I look forward to welcoming Steven, Dave and James to Belfast as Ulster men.”

Five of the 45 are on "development contracts", while 37 players from last season are retained, including captain Iain Henderson, and Rob Herring, over whom there had been rumours of retirement.

The 1999 European champions discovered their Heineken Champions Cup opposition last week, in the form of Bath, Harlequins, Racing 92, and Top 14 champions Toulouse. They will also be aiming to build on their impressive URC league form, which ended on a sour note with defeat to Connacht in Belfast in the last eight.

2023/24 Ulster Rugby Senior Men's Squad:

Will Addison

John Andrew*

Robert Baloucoune*

Billy Burns

Ben Carson* (development)

John Cooney

Reuben Crothers* (development)

Angus Curtis*

Nathan Doak*

Dave Ewers

Jake Flannery

James French

Iain Henderson* (Captain)

Rob Herring

James Hume*

Cormac Izuchukwu*

Greg Jones*

Steven Kitshoff

Mike Lowry*

Luke Marshall*

David McCann*

James McCormick* (development)

Stuart McCloskey*

Conor McKee* (development)

Ethan McIlroy* 

Marty Moore

Stewart Moore*

Ben Moxham*

Shea O’Brien*

Alan O’Connor*

Eric O’Sullivan*

Tom O’Toole*

Jude Postlethwaite*

Marcus Rea*

Matty Rea*

Sean Reffell

Callum Reid*

Aaron Sexton*

David Shanahan*

Harry Sheridan* (development)

Tom Stewart*

Jacob Stockdale*

Nick Timoney*

Kieran Treadwell

Andrew Warwick*

*denotes players developed through the Ulster Rugby Academy or Ulster school and club system