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6 Nations

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 Host One Day Camp at IRFU HPC

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Andy Farrell and his coaching team have assembled a group of 50 players for a one day camp at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin.

The Ireland men’s squad have an action packed 12 months ahead with games against  Japan, New Zealand and Argentina at the Aviva Stadium in the Autumn Nations Series in November.

In February and March there are tricky away games against England and France in the 2022 Six Nations Championships while Ireland host Wales, Italy and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

In July 2022 the team are also due to play a three Test tour against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Robert Baloucoune scores a try against the USA in the Vodafone Summer Series at the Aviva Stadium

During the summer Ireland recorded victories over Japan (39-31) and the USA (71-10) while capping nine new players – Robert Baloucoune, Caolin Blade, Paul Boyle, Harry Byrne, Gavin Coombes, James Hume, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney and Fineen Wycherley

Also during this period Jack Conan, Tadgh Furlong and Robbie Henshaw started all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions against South Africa while Conor Murray featured in all three games starting the second Test.  Tadhg Beirne was a replacement in the first two Tests and Bundee Aki started the series decider.

Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series games at the Aviva Stadium will be televised on RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).  The IRFU will finalise stadium capacity for these games following direction from government in October.

Backs (23)
Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 5 caps
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 31 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 1 cap
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) 1 cap
Billy Burns (Ulster) 7 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) 1 cap
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 24 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 3 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 25 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 93 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 15 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 10 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 52 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 13 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 6 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 89 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 99 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps

Forwards (27)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 5 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 16 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 22 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Buccaneers) 1 cap
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 6 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 20 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 9 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 19 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 9 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 49 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 109 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 63 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 22 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 45 caps
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 76 caps
Eric O’Sullivan (Ulster/ Banbridge) 1 cap
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 1 cap
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 37 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 24 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 32 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) 1 cap

Autumn Nations Series

IRELAND v Japan
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 6th November, 2021

IRELAND v New Zealand
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 13th November, 2021

IRELAND v Argentina
Aviva Stadium, Sunday 21st November, 2021

2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship

IRELAND v Wales
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 5th February, 2022

France v IRELAND
Stade de France, Saturday 12th February, 2022

IRELAND v Italy
Aviva Stadium, Sunday 27th February, 2022

England v IRELAND
Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 12th March, 2022

IRELAND v Scotland
Aviva Stadium, Saturday 19th March, 2022

2022 Summer Tour

New Zealand v IRELAND
TBC

New Zealand v IRELAND
TBC

New Zealand v IRELAND
TBC

Source –  Irish Rugby

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

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6 Nations

TG4 And RTÉ Partner To Show Over 150 Hours Of URC Coverage

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Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
As the brand new United Rugby Championship was officially launched yesterday, RTÉ and TG4 have confirmed that together they will deliver over 150 hours of URC action to Irish audiences free-to-air.

RTÉ and TG4‘s live free-to-air coverage of the new United Rugby Championship begins with Connacht live on TG4 on Friday, September 24, followed by an action-packed Saturday (September 25) as Leinster are live on TG4, and Munster live on RTÉ.

RTÉ will broadcast live television, radio and online coverage of 26 games featuring the provinces in the league, plus additional knockout matches. There will also be extensive highlights and analysis each week on Against the Head on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player.

TG4’s Rugbaí Beo will continue to be the station’s flagship rugby programme and will broadcast 26 games involving the Irish teams, and an additional 16 games featuring international club sides.

Spórt TG4 will also have exclusive behind-the-scenes action from the competition across its social media channels.

The United Rugby Championship final will also be delivered free-to-air with RTÉ and TG4 broadcasting it live on alternate years.

The RTÉ/TG4 joint broadcast output contract has been awarded to Iris Productions. The Galway-based production company spearheaded many innovations in their previous rugby coverage on TG4, including behind-the-scenes referee briefings and audio-snoops on coaches and players. NEP Ireland will provide OB facilities.

Rónán O Coisdealbha, TG4’s Head of Sport, commented: “TG4 has been bringing interprovincial rugby to Irish audiences since the first days of the Celtic League in 2001, and we are looking forward to taking this next step with the URC and to see the South Africa ‘Super’ teams become part of our Rugbaí Beo line-up.

“This partnership with RTÉ galvanises TG4’s commitment to provide the best of sporting action to our audiences, and to making that coverage free-to-air and accessible to all fans.”

RTÉ’s Group Head of Sport, Declan McBennett, said: “Being in a position to provide free-to-air coverage of the provinces to our audience in the newly reconstituted URC allows us to ensure our best rugby players are seen, and seen to inspire future generations who want to one day wear their provincial and national jersey.”

Martin Anayi, the United Rugby Championship’s CEO, added: “The widespread return of URC and the provinces to free-to-air television in Ireland is a real cause for excitement.

“We can’t wait for that energy to be unleashed on the opening weekend with some cracking games on RTÉ and TG4 involving Leinster and Munster against two of South Africa’s heavyweights in the Vodacom Bulls and the Cell C Sharks.

“We have talked about the potential of our new partnership with RTÉ and TG4 and now we get to see if come to life in a week’s time.”

TG4’s Rugbaí Beo

TG4’s Rugbai Beo, led by presenter Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill, will feature expert analysis from Eimear Consideine, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Niamh Ní Dhroma, Marcus Horan, Ronan Loughney, Eoghan Ó Neachtain and Eamonn Molloy along with a host of others.

Match commentary will be provided by Garry Mac Donncha, Gemma Ní Choinnaith will take over presenting duties from Máire Treasa while she is on maternity leave later in the year.

URC coverage will get underway on TG4 with a bumper weekend of action. On Friday, September 24,,Connacht travel to Wales to take on Cardiff Rugby (kick-off 7.35pm, TG4 & TG4 Player).

On Saturday, September 25, Leinster take on the Vodacom Bulls at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm, TG4 & TG4 Player).

RTÉ URC Live

RTÉ’s URC Live will be presented by Jacqui Hurley and Daire O’Brien with a top-class line-up of panellists.

RTÉ’s URC Live kicks off on Saturday, September 25 on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player with Jacqui Hurley live from Thomond Park as Munster begin their campaign against the Cell C Sharks. Donal Lenihan will be alongside Hugh Cahill on commentary.

RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ 2fm will have full live commentary on the key games involving the provinces as well as reports, analysis, and interviews throughout the season.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography

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6 Nations

Philip Browne To Retire As Chief Executive Of IRFU

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Philip Browne, in conjunction with the Management Committee of the Irish Rugby Football Union, has announced that he is to retire as Chief Executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union, as and from December 31, 2021.

Philip joined the IRFU in July 1992 and assumed the role of Chief Executive in 1998.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Philip said: “It has long been my intention to retire from the role of Chief Executive to coincide with reaching the age of 60. I delayed my decision, given the recent extraordinary pressures on Irish rugby, as a result of the Covid pandemic.

“I now believe we are at a point where it is possible to commence plotting a sustainable route out of the pandemic and engage in a structured approach to future longer-term planning, hence the announcement of my decision at this time.

It has been a privilege to serve as Chief Executive and while undoubtedly it has been a pressurised and challenging role it has, in equal measure, been a truly exciting and rewarding career.

“I would like to thank the various Union committees with whom I have worked and the staff of the Union for their unwavering support as, together, we oversaw the constant changes required to ensure the Union remained relevant to its constituents and the world game.

“I intend, in time, to reflect on possible future part-time commitments but, as of now, have no definite plans.”

Des Kavanagh, President of the Irish Rugby Football Union, expressed his appreciation, stating: “Philip Browne has been an exemplary Chief Executive of the IRFU over a period of enormous change within rugby and broader society.

His calm demeanour and wise counsel have been critical in charting an effective course for our game throughout his tenure.

“In recognising his outstanding career, I, on behalf of the IRFU Committee, all his colleagues and the wider rugby family, express our sincere thanks to him.”

Declan Madden, Chairman of the IRFU Management Committee, commented: “Irish Rugby has been extremely fortunate to have had at its helm for such a significant time a person of Philip Browne’s calibre.

His vision, integrity and commitment have made him one of the standout figures, not just in Irish sporting and business circles, but also in World Rugby over that time.

“His contribution to Irish Rugby has, quite simply, been immeasurable. Never one to seek the limelight, he has been the constant in overseeing unprecedented playing and commercial success for Irish rugby over three decades.

“We are truly grateful to Philip and wish him every good fortune as he moves on with his life.”

The IRFU has commenced a detailed search for a replacement Chief Executive and has appointed the international recruitment consultancy, Korn Ferry, to assist them with the process.

In the meantime, Kevin Potts, Chief Operating Officer, will assume the role of Interim Chief Executive on Mr. Browne’s departure.

Source- Irish Rugby

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