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Ulster Rugby have announced that they will be placing their players and coaching staff on furlough during the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Irish province joins as many as nine NI Premiership clubs - Ballymena, Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Glenavon, Glentoran, Institute, Linfield and Warrenpoint - in using the UK government's job retention scheme.

Approximately 70 per cent of Ulster's staff members have been placed on the scheme which will see up to 80 per cent of their wages paid by the UK government, up to a maximum amount of £2,500 per month.

Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie told BBC Sport that the players were very understanding.

"Everyone understands the situation and wants to work together. We have to protect the business so that when we come out of this, we are are at least as strong as when we went in.

"Reaching agreement with players was not a challenge as everyone understands the position we are in because of the current climate and environment."

Ulster have not played a home match since their Guinness PRO14 win against the Cheetahs on 22 February.

Petrie explained that the lack of matchday revenue has created cashflow problems for them.

"Like thousands of other businesses in Northern Ireland, we have seen a really challenging environment with the current situation," Petrie added.

"Like many others we have sought to take advantage of the relevant government schemes at a time when we still have many of our costs but we don't have anywhere near our level of revenues coming into the organisation with matches not being played.

"We had to look at what we could do as an organisation to ride out the current period."

Ulster are still due to play Toulouse in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup .

The timing of those ties has been impacted by the Top 14 cancelling their semi-finals which means that the European games will most likely by played after the summer.

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Guinness Pro14 Heineken Champions Cup Jonny Petrie Ulster Rugby

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