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Nucifora: ‘Domestic Game An Essential Part Of Irish Rugby Landscape’

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Despite being severely disrupted during the global pandemic, IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora insists the club game remains an essential part of the Irish rugby landscape.

With the exception of a short period that was designated to the newly-created Energia Community Series in Autumn of last year, grassroots action has been effectively on ice since Covid-19 took its grip on these shores in March 2020 with only the elite form of the sport permitted to take place on a continuous basis.

There is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for clubs, however, with the return of matches pencilled in for July. This will come as a massive relief to those invested in the domestic game and with Colin McEntee, IRFU Director Of Rugby Development, working tirelessly to get things back up to speed, Nucifora is confident it can continue to thrive over the next few years.

“Club rugby has a really important part to play. The fact that our players haven’t been able to play in club rugby for the last 15 or 18 months really hurts everyone. It hurts the clubs, it hurts the players, the development of those players. That has a knock-on effect to the Provinces because the players aren’t getting the amount of game time that we’d like them to get,” Nucifora explained in a media briefing on Wednesday.

“Just for the game in general, for people who aren’t aspirational but just enjoy playing the game, we need to have the club game reopened and started again because people’s engagement and attachment to the game happens through the clubs primarily. I know it’s been unbelievably tough for them being shut down for that long.

“But I do know in speaking with Collie that the engagement with the clubs has been really good during the shutdown period. They’ve done a lot of work online with the clubs to keep and stay engaged with them.

“I know since the opening of the club game has been announced that the report back from the clubs and to me via Collie is that things are actually going really well and people are unbelievably enthusiastic about getting up and running again.”

Central Contracting

Over the course of an extensive virtual press conference, Nucifora also spoke about the current IRFU Central Contract model in the face of ongoing financial challenges presented by Covid-19.

“We’ve revisited that a number of times and looked at the different models that could work and at the moment we haven’t been able to come up with anything that is better than the model that we have,” said Nucifora.

“The model is strong, it helps us retain our players, it helps us keep the Provinces strong, which is important, and I suppose that crosses over into our unwritten rule of only selecting players that are playing in Ireland.

“If we were to loosen it, that would make the provinces vulnerable to losing a lot more players because they would have the ability to come back and play for Ireland and not necessarily contribute to Irish rugby through their provinces which would have a knock-on, detrimental effect.

“For the IRFU, in this time of financial hardship, would it be a good idea? It probably would, you know, to pass on the cost of our top players to English, French or Japanese clubs, but that’s not the right thing to do.

“The right thing to do is to support the Provinces, keep the game healthy in Ireland, and maintain what we are doing. I think our model has proven to be quite strong.”

A native of Australia – who earned two caps for the Wallabies during his own playing career – Nucifora has been with the IRFU since May 2014. His current deal with the union is set to expire in a year’s time and he admitted that he will have some big decisions to make regarding his future between now and then.

“I think it’s something that I’ll consider over the next 12 months, but I think at the moment Covid has affected us all in different ways, and the stresses and strains that it’s put on everyone. Personally, it has put different stresses on me, separated from my family, which is difficult,” Nucifora said.

“From a professional point of view we have worked unbelievably hard in the last 15 months just to keep the game afloat. Would I like to have seen us further down the road with the strategies that we’ve put in place? Yes I would. But we’ve had to do what we’ve had to do to keep going and that’s probably held us back from achieving some of the things that I would have liked to have achieved.

“So are there more things that I would like to do? Yes there are and that’s something that I’ve just got to weigh up over the next 12 months as to whether that’s the right thing to do on a personal front, and on a professional front whether it’s the right thing to do as well and if the IRFU want me to remain doing what I’m doing. So they’re decisions that I’ll make in the coming months.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

6 Nations

Ireland To Take On US Eagles In Las Vegas

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Ireland will take on the US Eagles at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday 30th October 2021. The fixture is in addition to Ireland’s regular November Series of Test matches at the Aviva Stadium in November.

“It’s thrilling to host an international rugby event of this calibre in Las Vegas, and we can’t wait to welcome the teams and their fans to the Sports Capital of the World,” said Steve Hill, LVCVA CEO and president. “Nothing can match the energy and excitement of game day in Las Vegas.

We’re confident the teams and their fans will find the only-in-Vegas experiences they’ve come to expect, from incredible entertainment and dining to outstanding attractions and outdoor adventure.”

“Following an eventful summer, this fixture is exactly the growth we’re excited to see for our Men’s Eagles, with meaningful test matches at home against top nations,” said Ross Young, CEO of USA Rugby. “Allegiant Stadium is a first-class fan experience, and we’re thrilled to partner on this venue’s first-ever rugby match.”

“Matching up with Ireland for a second time this year, particularly on home soil, gives us a lot to look forward to,” said Gary Gold, USA Men’s Head Coach. “Las Vegas has always put a spotlight on rugby, where we’re excited to follow our Rugby World Cup qualification fixtures on such a big stage.”

The game against the US Eagles on 30th October will be the first ever rugby international fixture to be held at the Allegiant Stadium which is the home of NFL franchise the Las Vegas Raiders.

Ireland have been regular visitors to the US in recent years with matches against the Eagles in 2013 and 2017 and two fixtures in Chicago against New Zealand (2016) and Italy (2017).

Andy Farrell, Ireland Head Coach, commented: “Over the past few years we have had some incredible experiences playing in the US.  We had two very memorable trips to Chicago which included beating the All Blacks at Soldier Field for the first time in our history and our last fixture against the Eagles in New Jersey was another fantastic rugby experience.  We are looking forward to the game in October and to reconnecting with Irish Rugby fans in the US.”

James Ryan scores a try on his debut against the USA in 2017

James Ryan, who made his international debut against the US Eagles in New Jersey in 2017 and is Ireland captain for the forthcoming July tests, said: “Anytime we have played in the US we have had tremendous support either travelling from Ireland or Irish Rugby fans based in America.

We have been lucky to experience some great cities and stadia on our recent trips across the Atlantic but Las Vegas will be special and to be the first rugby game to be played at the Allegiant Stadium will just make it an even bigger occasion for players and fans alike.”

Ticket pre-sale starts at 10 AM on Tuesday, June 22 with public on-sale starting at 10 AM PDT on Friday, June 25.

Tickets start from $70 + fees and taxes.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/17005ACF1BD06533

Pre-Sale Schedule

Tuesday June 22

Las Vegas Raiders PSL Owners

Wednesday June 23 – Thursday June 24

USA Rugby Members & Partner
Irish Rugby Football Union Members & Partners
Allegiant Stadium Partners
MGM Resorts MLife Rewards Members
Las Vegas Convention & Visitor Authority Partner Network

Friday June 25

General public on sale

IRELAND RECENT FIXTURES IN THE UNITED STATES
USA 12 Ireland 15 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, June 2013
Ireland 40 New Zealand 29 – Soldier Field, Chicago, November 2016
USA 19 Ireland 55 – Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, June 2017
Ireland 54 Italy 7 – Soldier Field, Chicago, November 2018

Source – Irish Rugby

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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

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6 Nations

Ireland Squad Confirmed For Vodafone Summer Series

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Andy Farrell and the coaching team have named a 37 man squad for the Vodafone Summer Series which features two Tests in July against Japan and the USA at the Aviva Stadium.

The match against Japan on Saturday 3rd July will kick off at 1.00pm and the fixture against the USA on Saturday 10th July will kick off at 7.15pm.

Both fixtures are part of the government’s outdoor pilot sport event programme which will see limited supporters back in the Aviva Stadium.

James Ryan will captain the squad during the Vodafone Summer Series and there are 11 uncapped players named – Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney (Ulster), Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Paul Boyle (Connacht), Harry Byrne, Peter Dooley, Ross Molony (Leinster), Gavin Coombes, Fineen Wycherley (Munster).

Andy Farrell, Ireland head coach, said, “We now have two games at home to focus on which will be a good challenge for the group.  Japan played the Sunwolves at the weekend and will play the Lions the week before we play at the Aviva Stadium and we know the quality of their squad from the World Cup.

We will assemble as a squad on the 22nd June and begin our preparations for the two games.

I know the players will come in eager to make the most of this opportunity to pull on the green jersey and play in front of supporters for at the Aviva Stadium for the first time in 18 months. Johnny (Sexton), Cian (Healy) and Keith (Earls) will not be involved in this window as we grow the experience of other players.   It will be a great opportunity to see can this group perform at this level.”

Both games will be broadcast live by RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).

Ireland Squad – Vodafone Summer Series

Backs (17)

Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 4 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) uncapped
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) uncapped
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
Tom Daly (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps

Forwards (20)

Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Peter Dooley (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

Selected for British & Irish Lions Tour:
Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Andrew Porter (inj)

IRELAND v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

IRELAND v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

Images & Content from Irish Rugby

** EXCLUSIVE DAVID LLOYD OFFER FOR ULSTER RUGBY FANS **

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