When Jonny Bell swapped Worcester for Ulster during the summer, little did he realise that within months the English club would find itself battling extinction.

Bell spent last season at Worcester Warriors as defence coach before agreeing to return home and, like many, he was left shocked and saddened when the club was placed into administration.

Wasps followed Worcester into administration on Monday, making a further 167 people redundant, with the English Premiership now operating as an 11-team competition.

"It's hugely disappointing," Bell told RTÉ Sport. "My heart goes out to the players and staff, and the commercial side of the business too. It’s a very sad state of affairs.

"I just hope down the track that things can improve and they put some things in place to make sure this sort of thing is more regulated and doesn’t happen again. I’ve got a lot of friends who are out of work. It’s worrying.

"I was only at Worcester for a year but there’s a real sense of identity there. It’s not a big place but the supporters are hugely proud of their team.

"Worcester hasn’t been hugely successful over the last few years but there’s a strong identity with the area and what they represent. I feel for the supporters as well who haven’t got a team to go to, but especially those players and staff who have worked incredibly hard in very trying circumstances."

Worcester and Wasps have both been suspended from the English Premiership

While sympathetic to the plight of his former colleagues, Bell is both relieved and delighted to be back with his native province, who have made a promising start to the BKT United Rugby Championship.

They tackle the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday, having opened their South African tour with a thrilling 39-37 success over the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

"To get our first win in the URC in South Africa was fantastic but as a defence coach I had to get the defibrillator out towards the end of the match," he said.

"It was nip and tuck but I’m delighted for the boys. It gives us lots of confidence moving into this week."

Ulster beat the Sharks in Belfast last May

While Ulster were escaping from Ellis Park with a victory, the Sharks were busy inflicting a heavy loss on Glasgow in Durban.

Eben Etzebeth made his Sharks debut in that 40-12 win with fellow Springboks Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi coming off the bench, and all their international stars are expected to feature against Ulster.

Bell admits Ulster are playing "a different animal" this weekend but said the players are relishing the challenge.

"If you ask any player would they rather play against a team that’s half-cocked or the best Sharks team that’s available, they will absolutely say the latter," said Bell.

"They’re competitive men and want to play the best. You’re coming out to Durban and playing in pretty humid conditions against world-class players. That’s why you play the game.

"Of course it’s going to be a challenge but this group are pretty strong in their mindset. They love a challenge. They played against that Sharks team last season at Kingspan [winning 24-21]. The Sharks were heavily loaded but they didn’t let themselves down.

"We’re not for one minute underestimating the challenge but that’s the beauty of it and we’re well up for it."

Watch Leinster v Munster in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday from 4.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport and follow a live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app