Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

Dan McFarland has stepped down as head coach of Ulster with immediate effect, with Ireland U20 coach Richie Murphy set to take charge on an interim basis after the Six Nations.

McFarland leaves after five-and-a-half seasons at the province, having joined in the summer of 2018.

The 51-year-old had more than a year to run on his Ulster contract, but has agreed to step aside early after a run of poor form which has seen them fall to eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship table, and miss out on a place in the last-16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

His final game in charge last Sunday saw the province lose 19-17 away to the Ospreys, which was their third defeat in a row after two heavy Champions Cup losses to Toulouse and Harlequins in January.

In a statement, the province say that assistant coach Dan Soper will lead the team for next week's URC meeting with Dragons, while Murphy will then take interim charge in mid-March until the end of the season.

Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie said: "We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby."

McFarland departs as Ulster's longest-serving head coach of the professional era, taking over in 2018 following the departure of Jonno Gibbes.

The former Connacht prop enjoyed some success early in his tenure, securing qualification for Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2014, as well as reaching the semi-final of the Pro14 in his first season.

Ulster would go on to reach the Pro14 final in 2019/20, and lose an agonising URC semi-final in 2022 to the Stormers.

The Englishman signed a contract extension in 2022 that was meant to keep him in Belfast until 2025, but after a promising start to the 2022/23 season, Ulster's season unraveled in December and January where they lost six of seven games, and although they recovered to reach the knockout stages of both the URC and Champions Cup, rumours grew of discontent in the squad.

After an inconsistent start to this season, the province appeared to be getting back on track with wins over Racing 92, Connacht and Leinster, before they conceded a combined 95 points to Toulouse and Harlequins in their final Champions Cup pool games.

Reports of financial cutbacks have also clouded the atmosphere around the province, with a large exodus expected at the end of the season, with out-half Billy Burns believed to be moving south to Munster.

Following Sunday's defeat to the Ospreys, McFarland was heavily critical of the match officials for a late call against hooker Tom Stewart, however that criticism was met with a strong backlash by Ulster fans, which appears to have played a factor in his decision to move on.

Despite their recent form, the province are still reasonably placed in the URC, sitting eighth in the table with eight regular season games to play, while they will take on Montpellier away in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup.

Latest News