10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The prize was to send two lucky fans to Osaka and Tokyo to watch Ireland take on Japan in their two June test matches.
John, who is a member of the Irish Rugby Supporters Club, was planning to bring his wife along on the trip, but as she was expecting a child in the next couple of months, they decided against the journey and John's nephew Ciaran Moyne was the lucky recipient of a late call-up!
The pair arrived into the team hotel in Osaka on Saturday, June 11 - the eve of the first Test - and overcame the jet lag to watch Ireland convincingly defeat Japan 44-12 in the Nagai Stadium the next day.
The following day, John and Ciaran left the hotel with the rest of the Irish squad and travelled to Tokyo by Bullet Train where they had a little more time to settle in and see the sights of Japan's capital.
In the lead up to the final game, Tokyo experienced typical sub-tropical weather with thunder storms on the Tuesday, followed by soaring temperatures and a high humidity that lasted for the remainder of the week.
It was on Wednesday that our intrepid winners attended their first Irish training session and along with the players, were delighted that the weather improved.
"It was great to see the Irish squad going through their paces, which very few people get the chance to see," said John.
Ciaran was also delighted to meet the players and was thankful that his singing skills were not called upon, as he explained: "The tradition on the team coach was for players to sing a song if you were on the team coach for the first time, but thankfully we were not called upon.
"The training session was great and it was really interesting to see how they all prepared for the game."
Both of the lads did some more sight seeing before they attended the kickers' visit to the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground with Ireland tour captain David Humphreys and Jeremy Staunton on June 18 - the eve of the second Test.
"It was amazing to see how much they practised in the stadium and it really showed the following day as David was on fire with his kicking," said Ciaran, who, along with his uncle, even got to take a couple of practise kicks with some tuition from David Humphreys.
Ireland won the second Test game in incredibly hot and humid conditions 47-18 with an improved performance and seven well-taken tries.
With the tour over, John and Ciaran reflected back on their trip. "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we had a great time with the lads. It was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes," said John.
"As well as getting to meet the players during the tour, Japan was an amazing place to visit and it will leave us both with plenty of memories."
* The Irish Rugby Supporters Club will be running similar competitions to meet the team and travel to away games in the future, so log on now to the Supporters Club website and join the team!