Matt Williams has stepped down as Ulster head coach for family reasons.

The Australian had been in charge of the province for just one full season, having arrived in Belfast in December, 2007, following the departure of former boss Mark McCall.

"I have a young family in Sydney and it has become clear that I need to give them more of my time," Williams explained.

William inherited an Ulster side in transition and his cause was not aided by the departure of a number of key players last summer.

However, while the team only managed to finish eighth in the Magners League last term, and again failed to progress beyond the pool stages of the Heineken Cup, Williams had been praised for the steady progress his young side had been making under his tutelage.

"I am delighted with the progress of the Ulster players - the team is still in the very early days of their development," he enthused.

"They have won some excellent victories. There were outstanding performances in this year's Heineken Cup and the win against Harliquins and the defeat of Munster at Thomond Park in the Magners League are the stand out matches.

"We lost too many close games due to our inexperience but that will change with time.

"There needs to be patience and understanding that this team will grow into a powerful outfit in years to come. I am deeply disappointed that I will not be there with them on the journey.

"From Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace and Rory Best through to Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, David Pollock and Niall O'Connor, I was privileged to coach Ulster and witness the potential of their talent.

"I have enjoyed every day here in Ulster and am deeply sorry to leave in these circumstances. I will be watching out for them next season, but from Australia."