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6 Nations

Irish Rugby Ready to Welcome Supporters Back to the Aviva Stadium

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
The IRFU is pleased to play its part in the government’s outdoor pilot sporting event programme by staging two international fixtures at the Aviva Stadium; v Japan (Saturday, July 3rd) and USA (Saturday, July 10th)

Capacity at the Aviva for the Vodafone Summer Series will be limited to up to 3,000 (5.8% capacity) supporters for the game against Japan on the 3rd July and 6,000 (12% capacity) supporters for the USA fixture on the 10thJuly.

It will be the first time that any supporters will have attended the Aviva Stadium since Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations game against Wales on the 8th February 2020.

In recognition of their contribution to society the IRFU will allocate 300 tickets for the Japan Game to front line workers, while all clubs will be represented by club Presidents, who will be invited guests of IRFU President, Des Kavanagh.

For the USA game an allocation of circa 25% of the reduced capacity will go to rugby clubs via their branch ticket office.  Any tickets not taken up by clubs will be reallocated by the branch ticket office.  All tickets are priced at €40 for both games

As these are pilot events, the remaining tickets will be allocated, in reduced numbers to players’ partners and family members, long term ticketholders and IRFU  sponsors and media partners.

In line with government guidelines supporter safety is a key focus of these reopening pilots.  All attendees will be required to adhere to strict COVID safety protocols in order to ensure the success of these events.

Philip Browne, IRFU Chief Executive, commented, “Firstly I would like to thank the government for their approval of these two international rugby fixtures as pilot events.  It has been a long time since the Ireland team have played in front of live  albeit limited support, at the Aviva Stadium.

These games are initial positive steps on the journey back to hopefully full stadia across the Island.  The numbers are small, but I am sure spectators will make themselves heard in cheering on the team.  We look to deliver two successful safe events, as our part in  the government approved sporting and cultural pilots in the months ahead.

We hope that this programme, if successful  will put us all in a strong position to welcome back larger numbers of fans to the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn when we will have three international rugby fixtures including games against New Zealand and Argentina.”

Both July games will be televised live on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).

The matches remain subject to ongoing government approval.

Ticket Information

Spectator Safety COVID Protocols

To help protect you and your fellow supporters, we ask that you comply fully with the following protocols in relation to COVID spectator safety while attending matches at the Aviva Stadium.

The following COVID protocols are in addition to the normal stadium regulations that operate for all major sporting events at the Aviva Stadium. (see below).

Entry to the stadium constitutes your acceptance of the Spectator Safety COVID Protocols and any breach, in line with Stadium Regulations, may result in ejection from the stadium.

Key Points:

  • Download your e-ticket to your phone for contactless entry to stadium.
  • It is requested that you download and install the HSE COVID-19 Contact Tracing App.
  • Make note of your Stadium entry point in advance and arrive at the advised time.
  • Supporters must remain in their assigned seats apart from when using amenities.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking, unless you are under 13.
  • Maintain good hand hygiene by availing of hand sanitiser dispensers provided throughout the Stadium.
  • Tickets are not transferrable and must be used by the person named on the e-ticket.

In Advance of the Game:

  • Do not attend if you are experiencing COVID symptoms or are a close contact of a suspected case .
  • It is your responsibility to personally assess your ability to attend if considered a vulnerable person .
  • Ensure those attending the match with you have read and understood these guidelines

At the Game:

  • Please follow the directions of the stewards and any signage provided.
  • Please observe physical distancing at all times and in all parts of the grounds.
  • Please proceed to your allocated seating and remain there until exiting unless using amenities .
  • Avoid contact with others who are not in your social bubble.
  • When moving past others in a seated area, please avoid face to face contact with other spectators.
  • If you feel ill, please contact your closest steward for assistance.

Other Points to Note:

  • Contact information provided at ticket purchase and seat allocation will be kept for up to 28 days to facilitate contact tracing.
  • A free digital programme will be available to download for each game from irishrugby.ie .
  • You are advised to bring your own refreshments, as limited refreshment concessions will be in operation for these games, but no alcohol will be on sale.

Useful Links

Please follow all HSE COVID-19 health guidelines

A full list of Spectator Safety COVID Protocols for the Vodafone Summer Series matches will be available on www.irishrugby.ie.

Ireland Vodafone Summer Series 2021 Fixtures

Ireland v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00

Ireland v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15

Source Irish Rugby

6 Nations

IRFU Outline Difficult Road Ahead At Annual Council Meeting

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Annual Council Meeting of the Irish Football Rugby Union has been advised that despite ongoing work across the professional and domestic game to ensure the continuing safe participation in rugby, the IRFU is still at significant financial risk due to the persisting impact of COVID 19.

Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Treasurer, told delegates at the on-line meeting that despite many positive developments such as the ongoing vaccination rollout, successful pilot test events and the gradual relaxation of government restrictions, that rugby is “far from out of the woods”.

Kennedy outlined that without the assistance and commitment of government, sponsors, broadcasters, and patrons the IRFU would not have survived as it has, and that continued support remains vital.

Advising that the IRFU’s financial year end would move permanently to 31 July, to ensure alignment with the new global season, Kennedy confirmed that a full financial update will be issued from the Union in November following the presentation of the audited accounts for 2020/21 to the meeting of the IRFU Council at that time.

At the meeting it was confirmed that current President, Des Kavanagh, Senior Vice President, John Robinson and Junior Vice President, Greg Barrett, will remain in their respective roles for the forthcoming season, due to the impact COVID 19 had on their terms in office last season.

On the day that Munster’s Fiona Steed and Connacht’s Yvonne Comer (pictured) were appointed to the Union Committee, delegates were reminded that, following approval of governance changes at a special EGM in June, from 2023 a minimum of one in four nominees to the IRFU Committee from each Province must be female.

IRFU Thank Government For Support

Speaking of the challenging environment Philip Browne, CEO, told irishrugby.ie,

“Irish Rugby is continuing to grapple with the most significant financial crisis in our history and we are expecting to report another year of losses in 2021, when our audited accounts are released later this year.”

The key issue remains the absence of fans at provincial grounds and the Aviva Stadium. The IRFU continues to address this particularly through its active participation in   the cross-sport working party on return of fans to stadia.  “We have made encouraging progress in recent weeks with the return of increasing numbers of supporters to various sporting and cultural events, which leaves us hopeful that fans may return in meaningful numbers to our grounds in Autumn.  I would like to thank the government, in particular Minister Chambers and his department officials for their commitment to facilitating the safe progressive return of fans to stadia.

“As the only sporting organisation fully supporting a professional game, we are dependent on the national and provincial teams’ ability to generate revenues which have been decimated by the impact of COVID restrictions since March 2020.” Browne added.

Looking back at his most challenging season at the helm of Irish Rugby, Browne reiterated that the IRFU had to implement a 10% permanent cost base reduction, approved by the Union in March of this year and with that came some difficult decisions, despite a critically important grant of €18m from government in respect of loss of revenues in 2020.

“As in many industries, regrettably we have had job losses and pay cuts across the organisation for the last 12 months while we also eliminated all non-critical overheads.”

Looking at forward financial projections Browne outlined ‘We understand that Sport Ireland and the Department are discussing, with government, proposals for additional emergency funding for sport.  We made a submission to Minister Chambers setting out expected further significant cash income losses for the IRFU and Provinces in 2021 arising from COVID 19 restrictions.

The meeting heard that the bulk of the 2021 losses are already realised as the 2020/21 season has now concluded and the IRFU, alone, has suffered a 47% reduction in turnover for the six months to the end of June 2021, compared to the first half of 2019.

Browne explained, “Our two largest income-generating home games every two years against England and France were held behind closed doors with a loss of match income of over €16m. These are the games that keep Irish Rugby going.”

The challenges for rugby are clear and without the assistance of the government’s EWSS employment supports, which the IRFU and Provinces continue to receive, and the PAYE debt warehousing scheme, Browne said that the IRFU would now be facing a more bleak situation. 

“The schemes available from the government are vitally important to on-going operations, but these result in accumulated debt of c. €30m in PAYE to date, this will eventually have to be paid.

“Without additional government funding in 2021, and a return of fans to our stadia in meaningful numbers later this year, the IRFU would once again have to review all activities and swiftly implement another round of very unpalatable cost reductions. Further cuts, if necessary, would have a significant impact on the organisation and all activities from grassroots to pro game pathways.”

Searching for a positive in the current environment Brown said “The importance of pathways and programmes is always at the forefront of our minds and is perfectly demonstrated by the huge success of our men’s sevens team qualifying for the Olympics, for the first time.

“We also managed to host all of our International match fixtures and all, but one, Provincial game in Ireland, albeit behind closed doors. We also continued supporting the severely restricted levels of club activities. This was done safely thanks to the development, implementation, and compliance across Irish Rugby of robust COVID 19 protocols.

“I would like to thank our committee and playing and non-playing staff for their commitment, and of course the volunteers across our clubs for doing their very best to ensure that Irish Rugby continued to function and emerge from this crisis.

“It is important we acknowledge these achievements, given the disruption and challenges we have all experienced this year.  As is always the case, success on the pitch can give the whole nation a lift including this week’s historic first involvement of an Ireland Sevens team at the Olympic Games.”

Source –  Irish Rugby

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6 Nations

World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol

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World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.

The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.

The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.

The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.

There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.

Michael Hooper with a textbook tackle close out a certain try

The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.

World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.

They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.

The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.

Source – Australia Rugby

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6 Nations

England name 8 new caps for USA clash

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(Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones has named his England team for this weekend’s Test match against USA.

Eight uncapped players are set to make their debuts at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 4 July (2pm KO).

Lewis Ludlow will captain the side at blind-side flanker, with Sam Underhill at open-side flanker and Callum Chick at No.8.

Ellis Genge (loose-head prop) will be vice-captain and is joined by Curtis Langdon (hooker) and Joe Heyes (tight-head prop) in the front row.

Locks Josh McNally and Charlie Ewels complete the tight five.

Henry Slade, the most-capped player in the squad, will be at outside centre with Ollie Lawrence at inside centre.  Marcus Smith will start at fly half and Harry Randall is at scrum half. 

Freddie Steward is at full back, while Max Malins (left) and Joe Cokanasiga (right) are on the wings in attack.

Among the finishers there are four further uncapped players who could make their first appearance for England – Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Ben Curry and Jacob Umaga.  Beno Obano, Ted Hill, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Robson are also named as finishers.

Jones said: “Over the past three weeks our biggest message to the players is what an opportunity this is to show what they can do and make their mark with England.

“They’ve applied themselves as a group and worked very hard individually during this camp to reach their personal bests.

“Now it’s all about coming together as a team, gelling and putting in a good performance at the weekend.”

England v USA is live on Channel 4, with coverage starting from 1.30pm.

England XV Starters
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
14. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 38 caps)
12. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 6 caps)
11. Max Malins (Saracens, 7 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, uncapped)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps)
2. Curtis Langdon (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
4. Josh McNally (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 21 caps)
6. Lewis Ludlow (C) (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 22 caps)
8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)

Finishers
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
17. Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
18. Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
19. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
21. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 12 caps)
23. Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)

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