Decision on futures of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding imminent
The IRFU are expected to announce their decision on the contracts of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding on Saturday.
It is understood the internal review concluded on Wednesday and the players have been informed of the outcome, but an IRFU source maintains there are still loose ends to be tied up.
Both players had been cleared of a rape charge a fortnight ago after a nine week trial at Belfast Crown Court. In addition Jackson had been found not guilty of sexual assault.
Their positions remained under scrutiny as support became polarised. Former Ireland and Lions captain Willie John McBride said earlier this week they should be allowed to return to play. A full page advertisement was taken out this week in the Belfast Telegraph by Ulster supporters calling for their reinstatement. That followed an ad in the same paper last week by "concerned fans" calling for their dismissal.
- Hundreds protest at home of Ulster Rugby over handling of Jackson and Olding
- Lions legend McBride slammed by rape crisis centres for 'dismissing' actions of Jackson and Olding
On Thursday Ulster sponsor Bank of Ireland issued a statement about its concern over the case.
"As a sponsor of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland is highly concerned regarding the serious behaviour and conduct issues which have emerged as a result of the recent high profile trial. The Bank has formally conveyed these concerns to the CEO of Ulster Rugby," it said.
"It is of paramount importance to Bank of Ireland that our sponsorship activity aligns with and supports our core values, and reflects positively on Bank of Ireland through association."
A rally was held at Kingspan Stadium, ahead of the Guinness Pro 14 game against Ospreys, by Belfast Feminist Network, under the banner 'Stamp out Misogyny at Ulster Rugby'.
"We want there to be proper accountability for those players from the IRFU and Ulster Rugby but we also want a commitment from leaders within the rugby establishment that they will take action to stamp out misogyny," a spokesperson said.
In the light of the trial and its aftermath it is understood the IRFU will review their guidelines on the responsibilities of contracted players at all levels.