IAN WHITTEN WILL leave Ulster at the end of the season after signing a two year contract with the Exeter Chiefs.
The 24-year-old centre has made 61 appearances for his province including nine outings in the Heineken Cup.
Next season he will line out with the west country outfit who currently sit fifth in the Aviva Premiership.
Whitten is the first player signed under new head coach, Rob Baxter. In a statement on the club’s website, Baxter said:
“He’s played the last three or four games, starting on the wing or in the centre, and we do quite like backs who can play in more than one position. It works in the way we want to play with the back line we’ve got.”
“We really liked him when we met him, he came in and did some testing and proved to be a really powerful guy.”
“He probably feels he’s been held back in Ireland by having some very good players in front of him at what is at the moment a successful side, Ulster are going very well.”
With Paddy Wallace, Nevin Spence, Darren Cave and Luke Marshall all in the mix, Ulster are well stocked with Irish-qualified centres and Tommy Bowe can also shift inside as he has proven during his time with the Ospreys.
Whitten, who has also won two senior caps for Ireland, can expect to see much more game time with the Chiefs and he admits to have taken advice from Dan Tuohy and Lewis Stevenson who each had spent time at Sandy Park.
“I spoke to both Dan and Lewis and they said lots of great things about the club. Also a few of the guys here played for the Irish Wolfhounds over there the other week and said how impressed they were by the place.”
“I liked what I saw as well and the facilities look great. All I’ve heard is real positives about the place, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
“Obviously I’m delighted with the move,” he added. “It’s going to be a new challenge in a tough environment for me, but it’s one I am very much looking forward to.”
The news of Whitten’s departure comes on the foot of the news from Ulster that Mark Anscombe is expected to replace Brian McLaughlin as head coach next season.