Ulster Rugby has been boosted by the news that exciting youngsters Jacob Stockdale, Ross Kane and Rob Lyttle have signed new contracts with the Province.
Stockdale, who graduated from the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy last year, has enjoyed a fine season to date with the senior squad, scoring 8 tries in his 14 competitive appearances, which includes 7 starts.
The versatile back, who turned 21 earlier this week, attended Wallace High School and is a former Irish U20 international.
Kane and Lyttle, both of whom are current members of the Academy, have been rewarded for their excellent development this season with a place on the senior panel. They have already made significant contributions to Les Kiss' squad, having made 11 and 8 appearances respectively.
Kane captained Methodist College to Danske Bank Ulster Schools' Cup success in 2013 before taking his place in the Academy. He is affiliated to Ulster Bank League 1B club Ballymena RFC.
Lyttle lined out for Ireland in the recent U20 Six Nations and he plays his club rugby for Queen's University RFC.
Les Kiss was understandably delighted to retain the services of the three players:
"Jacob, Ross and Rob are outstanding talents who, even at a young age, have demonstrated their qualities for our senior team.
"In addition to having the physical attributes to be top class players, they also possess a positive mental aptitude and a strong understanding of the game. Their development has really accelerated under Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson in the Academy and they have shown great appetite to continue that with the senior squad.
"All three were identified in the school game at a young age and have come through our player development pathway, which is essential for the sustainable future of Ulster Rugby. We have significantly increased investment in this area over the past couple of years and we are starting to reap the rewards.
"The challenge for us is to bring players through from outside of the school game and it was pleasing to see club youth players Tommy O'Hagan, John McCusker and Joe Dunleavy starting for our Ulster A team last Friday, while we also had Adam McBurney and Aaron Hall on the bench. This is hugely positive for us and hopefully we'll see even more of this in the years ahead.”