Soper’s appointment follows on from that of former player Jared Payne who will assume the role of defence coach, and now Soper’s appointment completes the Ulster backroom for next season along with assistant coach Dwayne Peel, scrum coach Aaron Dundon and head analyst Niall Malone.
Soper will be a familiar face to followers of Irish domestic rugby. The 41-year-old native of Alexandra, New Zealand, moved to Ireland in 1998 and played for both Banbridge RFC and Ballynahinch RFC. He also had spells playing for North Otago in New Zealand’s NPC and Padova in Italy.
He was part of the coaching team that guided Ballynahinch to the ‘grand slam’ of Ulster and All-Ireland Cup and League success in 2009. In 2010, Soper rejoined Banbridge as head coach and has overseen two promotions in the All-Ireland League. Soper will continue to be involved at Banbridge next season.
Soper said: “When I spoke to (Ulster operations director) Bryn Cunningham and the other coaches, I was really impressed with the vision they have about how they want the team to play and where they want the club to go, and I feel my strengths are well suited to the role they want me to play in that.
“There are a lot of the players that I have worked with over the years, from Michael Lowry and James Hume at ‘Inst’ in recent years, right back to Darren Cave who I coached at Sullivan, as well as all the players on the Ulster Schools and Banbridge teams.
“Also, as someone who has been a season ticket holder for the past number of years, I’ve always watched the development of players with a keen eye so it’s really exciting that I’ll now have the opportunity to help further that development.
“The prospect of working in the professional game is something that I am really enthused about, I expect it to be another step up.”
Bryn Cunningham added: “This is a great opportunity for a revitalised coaching group to come in with fresh ideas and a renewed determination to take Ulster back to where we all want to be.”