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PRO14 faces further disruption as Northern Ireland lockdown set to force postponement of Ulster v Munster derby


Ulster v Munster is set to be postponed

Ulster v Munster is set to be postponed

Ulster v Munster is set to be postponed

ULSTER hope they can fulfil their December 27 PRO 14 fixture in Connacht and their home fixture on January 2 seems almost certain to fall foul of the restrictions of a new six-week lockdown which is slated to begin on December 26 in Northern Ireland.

As Connacht play in a different jurisdiction, Dan McFarland’s side are hoping they can train as normal and conduct a Captain’s Run in Galway before fulfilling the fixture on the following day.

However, as there will be no sporting activity in Northern Ireland between 26 December and 1 January under new Covid-19 restrictions, the inability to train is almost certain to force a postponement of the January 2 fixture in Belfast against Munster.

'Elite' sport can resume behind closed doors after January 2 but with the team unable to train, it would seem highly unlikely that Ulster can conceivably fulfil a fixture without having trained in the preceding week even if they seek a postponement.

They may now seek a derogation to allow them to train but there is no precedent for exemptions being granted and the growing crisis in the north makes it extremely unlikely that one would be afforded them anyway.

The move is part of a six-week lockdown in Northern Ireland, which was announced by the Stormont executive on Thursday night.

The Irish Premiership programme on St Stephen’s Day and December 29, a traditional festive sporting staple, are also affected by the new measures.

Ulster have welcomed back a small number of supporters for recent home fixtures but all of their Champions Cup and PRO 14 home games in January and early February must now take place behind closed doors.

The initial lockdown in March also saw a total ban on sporting activity for a number months while other measures have included allowing only 'elite' sport to take place.

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The Northern Ireland Sports Forum said it recognises that the Executive had to make difficult decisions in response to the pandemic.

"Like others, the sporting sector has been greatly affected by the ongoing stop-start nature of activity and the uncertainty surrounding activity has been difficult for governing bodies to operate within," it added.

"As sport has been highly regulated throughout the pandemic and the importance of engagement and spectating in sport has been showcased to be vitally important for the health and wellbeing of society at present, we understand that many may be disappointed to not be able to engage in their chosen activities over the next six weeks.

"The Northern Ireland Sports Forum would urge members to ensure continued full compliance with the regulations from their clubs which will put us on a platform to a return to full activity in the weeks and months ahead."

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