18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
The Ulster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union is delighted to announce that Belfast has been chosen as the host city for the IRB Under-19 World Championship in 2007.
The tournament, which will feature 24 of the world's best teams, will take place over a 60 match, three-week period from April 4 to April 21 next year.
Ulster Chief Executive Michael Reid said the province was determined to put on the greatest ever tournament.
"The IRB Under-19 World Championship is a key tournament in the international rugby calendar and is arguably the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Ulster," said Reid.
"Our thanks go to the IRB for selecting Ireland as the host union and to the IRFU for putting their trust in Ulster. We are determined to make the IRB Under-19 World Championship 2007 the biggest and best ever. It's a wonderful opportunity to get involved in rugby and to create a lasting legacy through better facilities, youth development and volunteerism.
"We will have more than 700 players here from all over the world, so it is a great chance to showcase Belfast as a major player on the international sporting scene," he added.
...A general view of Ravenhill in Belfast...
International Rugby Board chairman Dr. Syd Millar said that Ulster had an opportunity to host the most successful tournament to date.
"The IRB is delighted that Ireland and the Ulster Branch are hosting the Under 19 World Championship next year," admitted Millar.
"The province has a long and distinguished rugby heritage and I am sure that they will produce an outstanding tournament. The people of Ulster are passionate about rugby and I am sure that they will embrace a tournament that will generate a great deal of excitement and interest in the province and wider rugby community.
"Age grade rugby tournaments are an integral part of the rugby calendar and are central to the game's growth and development and a whole host of players have graduated from the IRB Under-19 World Championship to make names for themselves at Test level.
"We have an obligation to prepare these stars of tomorrow in the best way that we can. The IRB Under-19 World Championship provides players with invaluable exposure to high-quality competition where anti-doping training, disciplinary procedures, heightened media attention, high-quality opposition and the camp play key roles in preparing players for the full international stage," added Millar.
Amongst those backing the tournament financially and providing additional support services are UK Sport, The Northern Ireland Events Company, Belfast City Council, Sports Council for Northern Ireland and North Down Borough Council, with some pool games possibly to be played in Bangor.
"UK Sport is delighted to contribute up to #368,000 to the IRB Under-19 World Championship," said John Scott, International Director at UK Sport.
"This money has been allocated from our National Lottery funded World Class Events Programme which helps to bring strategically important major sporting events to the UK.
"This age grade event is an extremely important competition in the rugby calendar and will give talented young athletes from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the opportunity to play the most important games of their lives with all the benefits that playing on home soil brings.
"We look forward to working once again with our partners in Northern Ireland to put on an event of the highest quality which will leave a legacy for years to come."
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