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.
As part of this organisational restructuring, two new positions have been created to cater directly for the domestic game and the elite player development structure.
The objective of both positions is to increase the scope of IRFU staff resources to cater for an expanding game in both areas and to focus the appropriate delivery of services for each of them.
The first new position will be the appointment of a Domestic Game Manager, who will be responsible for the planning, development and organisation of the game within clubs and schools throughout Ireland.
The Domestic Rugby Manager will report directly to the IRFU Director of Rugby and also sit on the Domestic Game Committee. The role will ensure a focus on the club and schools game at grassroots level to maintain its development.
The second position will be that of a High Performance Manager, who will report to the Director of Rugby. The manager will be responsible for the development and implementation of the IRFU high performance pathway designed to increase the thru put and quality of future Irish professional players.
Both positions will be advertised in the coming weeks in both the national press and on www.irishrugby.ie.
The IRFU will also be making important changes on a departmental basis within the organisation. The Operations sector of the IRFU will be reorganised into a new Corporate Services function, with current IRFU Operations Director Martin Murphy filling the lead role as Director of Corporate Affairs.
The growth of the IRFU's commercial and marketing activity will see current Marketing Manager Padraig Power becoming Commercial and Marketing Director.
The Finance department will be led by current IRFU accountant Conor O'Brien as Financial Controller. Maurice Dowling, the current Head of Human Resources will take the role of Director of Human Resources of this expanding area.
These appointments will give each division the capacity to grow and deliver a more focused service.
Commenting on the restructuring process, Mr. Philip Browne, Chief Executive of the IRFU, said: ''The needs of the domestic game and the development of age grade rugby are evident to any stakeholder in Irish Rugby. This was highlighted in the Strategic Plan and both of these new positions are a direct result of the review process.
"On the domestic front, the revitalisation of grassroots rugby is an important issue for the game in Ireland. We are aiming for a 17% increase in player numbers by 2008 and this dedicated position of Domestic Game Manager will provide the necessary resources to achieve this," he added.
''With the success of the Irish national team and the provinces, the need for an effective system for the development of professional players is essential. The new High Performance Manager will be a critical element of this system and is fundamental to the development of professional players to feed into our national teams and provinces in the future," said Browne.