19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
IRB chairman Dr. Syd Millar reckons rugby fans are in for a real treat when the 2007 Rugby World Cup hits France this time next year.
The French Organising Committee is certainly under pressure to match the high standards set at the '03 World Cup in Australia, but speaking to Total Rugby Radio recently, Millar admitted that France will prove to be "a superb venue" for a tournament which is billed as the world's third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup.
He said: "I think that each World Cup has to be better than the other. You have to learn from the last one and you have to learn to eradicate the mistakes beause there will always be mistakes.
"Since the last one (in Australia), we have now got a legacy, we've got a document that really tells us how to run it much better than we had before so we just learn from one to the other.
"I think the Australian Rugby World Cup was a great World Cup - we had 1.9 million spectators there and huge interest around the world," added the former Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and Lions prop.
"I think that France will improve upon that. I think it's handier, if you like, for the major spectator base - and that's Europe - so I would expect that the number of visitors to France will be huge, and I'd expect they'll all enjoy themselves with a bit of good French wine and French food.
"I think the French have planned this very well. I'm very pleased with the way they've planned things and the organising committee has to be congratulated. Spectator access is easy and I just think France will prove to be a superb venue."
Some sections of the rugby fraternity were annoyed that the IRB seemingly missed the boat last November when they voted for New Zealand to be the hosts for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Japan were hoping to become the first country to stage the tournament outside of the top-tier rugby countries but after ending South Africa's involvement in the first round of voting, they failed in the final vote.
Japanese Union President Yoshiro Mori said at the time: "It may be that the 'old boys' network has won the day for New Zealand. It would have been good for the globalisation of rugby (had Japan won).
"Everyone thought it would be great value for the game in Asia. It was not just for the benefit of Japan, rugby needed a new stage, a new venue."
But Millar counters: "It was very easy to be critical (of the decision) and I can understand where they're coming from and saying 'well, why not Asia?', but the International Rugby Board - the council members - had to consider all the facts and I'm absolutely 100% certain that they came to the right conclusion about it.
"You know, a World Cup may do certain things for that area, that region, but really if you want to improve rugby football in an area, it's from performance initiatives over a period of time, not just one Rugby World Cup.
"At the end of the day, New Zealand were the select host union and I've no argument with that whatsoever. They are a great rugby nation, they will conduct the tournament, I'm sure, very well - they have a very, very good and efficient management structure," said the Ballymena man, who managed Ireland at the only previous World Cup to be held in New Zealand, back in 1987.
"The IRB have to be very aware and have a huge responsability in placing this because it is our only cash cow, it's terribly important for world rugby that we get it right.
"I'm not saying that South Africa or Japan couldn't run a World Cup, but in this instance, the boxes were ticked more for New Zealand than for the other two. Both South Africa and Japan will bid again and maybe they will be successful on that occasion."