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Ulster Rugby may switch training base to Republic of Ireland in bid to return to action

 

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Looking ahead: Ulster coach Dan McFarland is making plans

Looking ahead: Ulster coach Dan McFarland is making plans

�INPHO/Alex James

Looking ahead: Ulster coach Dan McFarland is making plans

Ulster could be set to return to structured training south of the border should the professional game in Ireland begin to ramp up again over the next few months.

According to reports from Dublin, the IRFU is thought likely to present a proposal to the Irish government outlining how the provinces could begin a return to some form of organised training programme though with due care given to the continued threat of coronavirus.

Though there is no apparent timeframe it is thought that this potentially could be in place over the coming months.

The idea is believed to be part of the IRFU's approach to get the provinces moving towards structured preparation to play again which, if given the green light, will probably only involve inter-provincial games due to the more widespread travel restrictions which are not thought likely to lift any time soon.

It is also reported that part of this scheme would therefore involve Ulster possibly temporarily moving their training base to the Republic, with Dundalk in Co Louth named as their most accessible venue, in order for Dan McFarland's squad to be able to function under the potentially agreed guidelines.

Should this move be sanctioned by the Irish government then the logistics of how it would work would be down to the IRFU.

Ulster announced on Wednesday that all their playing squad and most staff have been placed on furlough through the Government's Jobs Retention Scheme.

Players from the other provinces - Leinster, Munster and Connacht - are currently all deemed to be working as they follow training programmes from home.

Last month, the IRFU revealed pay deferrals for all its employees.

Should Ulster players return to some form of structured training then the expectation would be that they would no longer be furloughed.

When asked about the possibility of Ulster moving their training base the IRFU said: "The IRFU and the provinces are looking at multiple options in relation to how and when we might return to training.

"It would be inappropriate to engage in speculation until such time as we are in a position to confirm the process we will follow."

When revealing that Ulster had furloughed their players and majority of their staff, Chief Executive Jonny Petrie said: "We and the IRFU will work with the relevant authorities to look at how we get players back to where they're taking part in structured training in groups, in what would need to be a tightly-controlled capacity.

"There's a bit to go before we fully understand what the next few months look like for us and how return to play, in whatever guise that might be, looks like."

The Irish government's next announcement regarding coronavirus restrictions is due to be made on May 5 and that will likely hold the key for the IRFU's next move in regards to any shift towards sanctioning some form of squad training in the four provinces.

Belfast Telegraph