Three Ulster rugby players have been spoken to after they were snapped flouting COVID-19 social distancing in a Belfast park.

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The Belfast Telegraph photographed the three players who took to a park in the city to train together in apparent contravention of the current UK lockdown protocols.

Brothers Alan and David O’Connor, who live in the same household, were joined by prop Marty Moore, although the Ulster players claim the training session was not pre-arranged. Moore arrived and left separately according to the report.

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Residents were said to have shouted at players when they started training. Ulster Rugby told the newspaper that they have reminded the players of the social distancing guidelines.

Yesterday it was revealed that Ulster Rugby will be partaking in the UK furlough scheme.

Ulster Rugby have taken advantage of their unique position within Irish rugby, placing around 70 per cent of its staff of 183 – including players – on the UK government’s job retention scheme. The temporary scheme, which covers 80 per cent of a person’s usual monthly wage up to £2,500 a month, is a benefit payment not available to employees at the other Irish provinces south of the border who come under the Republic of Ireland jurisdiction.

Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland, Ulster CEO Jonny Petrie said: “130 are currently in furlough and that is from the beginning of April. We will review again as we go through the next few weeks and we will see what comes at the beginning of May.”

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The IRFU announced on March 20 it had reached an agreement with the Rugby Players Ireland on a series of pay deferrals. “These deferrals, based on an equitable sliding scale which ranges from 10 per cent to 50 per cent, will be effective from April and beyond if required,” read a statement at the time.

With Ulster having since adopted the UK emergency relief furlough scheme, they are topping up wages to the agreed deferred level of salary with the IRFU. “We have to protect the business so that when we come out of this, we are at least as strong as when we went in,” continued Petrie.

“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.”

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