Ulster striving to be the best, says Bryn Cunningham

Ulster Rugby's operations director Bryn Cunningham
Ulster Rugby's operations director Bryn Cunningham

Ulster Rugby is striving to be the best both on and off the field, operations director Bryn Cunningham has said.

He was making reference to what he believed was a misinterpretation of chief executive Shane Logan’s comments about Ulster becoming the best in the world several years ago.

Since reaching the European Champions Cup final in 2012, Ulster have reached two quarter-finals, but have failed to make the last eight since 2014.

On the domestic front in spite of reaching the PRO12 final and numerous semi-finals they still have no silverware to show for their efforts.

Logan took over as CEO at Ulster Rugby in 2010 and his bold statements about being the best club on the planet certainly raised eyebrows.

Yesterday Cunningham, who revealed Ulster were preparing to launch a new three to five year strategy, said he felt there had been some misinterpretation previously.

“I came into our strategy then a couple of years into it and it was largely based around a group of players which was very strong,” he explained.

“Some home-based players were going into retirement and a couple of foreign players who had had huge impact were going.

“We got to the Champions Cup quarter-final and Jared Payne was sent-off in that quarter-final against Saracens and at that point we were at a real peak.

“That strategy was placed around being the world’s best. That was put across and I think you’ve got to have a lot of ambition and with that it can occasionally be misinterpreted that we need to be literally the best club side in the world and that’s not really what that was about - it was about being the best in every facet of the game both on and off the field.

“I think now we’ve had a chance to sit back and look at what’s important now and where are we and let’s take stock and almost have a bit of realism about exactly where we are.”

In terms of the new strategy, Cunningham said: “We are going through a change at the moment off the pitch in terms of the strategy of the organisation.

“We have probably come to a natural end there. We are in the process over the last few months of looking at our strategy for the next three to five years, which is a really exciting thing now to be a part off.

“I know that certainly externally it is all a bit doom and gloom and things have not been going as well as we would have hoped and obviously with the off field audit at present as well Ulster are in the spotlight for not the right reasons.

“But I see this as a fantastic opportunity for us to really develop a strategy more than anything which is organisation wide.

“It is just not the pro game, we are an organisation, we are a club where clubs, schools, domestic rugby, volunteers our supporters our stakeholders.

“We have got to try and find something which everyone feels a part of and buys into, and hopefully we can build something going forwards which is really strong.”

Meanwhile, Ulster are back in Guinness PRO14 action this Friday night with a home game against South African side Southern Kings.

It will be the first game Ulster are without director of rugby, Les Kiss, who departed by mutual consent last week. Head coach Jono Gibbes is now leading the coaching team.

Cunningham said given the aim of targeting the PRO14 play-offs it was crucial the squad focused on what they needed to get right now.

“From speaking to Jono (Gibbes) and the boys, the training has gone really well this week,” said Cunningham

“It’s been short, sharp and really good stuff and the guys are energised with few mistakes. That is exactly what we are after.”

what we’re after and if we can transfer that into the game on Friday night we’d be confident that the result will look after itself.