Mark Anscombe is named as the new Ulster Head Coach

New Zealander Mark Anscombe will be the new Head Coach at Ulster next season.

The 54-year-old, who has been in charge of the successful New Zealand Under-20 team, has agreed a two-year contract.

Former Auckland coach Anscombe is renowned as a technical forwards specialist and has worked with Ulster players John Afoa and Jared Payne.

It is understood the other two candidates on the Ravenhill shortlist were ex-Ulster player Matt Sexton and former Gloucester coach Dean Ryan.

Anscombe succeeds Brian McLaughlin who was in charge of Ulster for three seasons, and the Kiwi will arrive in Belfast on 1 June.

McLaughlin has guided the province to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the last two years and is hoping to reach the Pro12 play-offs for a second successive season.

Anscombe has formerly coached Auckland in the ITM Cup, New Zealand's annual professional domestic rugby union competition.

"It has been a long and detailed process but we're now delighted to confirm that Mark will be joining us next season." commented Ulster's Director of Rugby David Humphreys.

"We all believe that he has the experience, ability and knowledge to build on the success of the last two years.

"We were all very impressed with Mark during the interview process - he know what it takes to get the best out of players and has an in-depth understanding of the game.

"He has strong leadership qualities and will challenge both the players and staff in ways some of them haven't been challenged before.

"As well as an experienced Head Coach, he is a high quality technical forwards coach with a proven track record of delivering competitive, physical forward packs.

"He will be instrumental in developing some of the young forwards already in our system to ensure they become key players for both Ulster and Ireland."

"I've been keeping an eye on Ulster for a while now and I'm very impressed with the plans and what's happening at Ulster Rugby and I've very excited about the prospect at being involved in that," said Anscombe.

"It goes without saying that the job will present me with an exciting challenge.

"Ulster have been developing over the past few years, they've had some new players come in to strengthen the squad so the foundations are there but there's a lot of work to be done in terms of moving on to the next stage and that will be a challenge for me and for all of us."