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.
"There is a richness to rugby that can, if harnessed properly, make the game a huge power for good in our society and we are very interested in engaging with our elected representatives and government departments to ensure that rugby is at the heart of decision making in Northern Ireland.
"The values of respect, discipline and hard work that are an intrinsic part of the game provide a useful code in terms of educating our young people.
"Rugby has the ability to bring communities together, deter from anti-social behaviour and our clubs provide excellent bases for their local communities.
"Through the game we can promote the benefits of active living, encourage children and young people to take part in enjoyable and sociable physical activity and tackle health issues.
"And there's an economic angle as well - with rugby played in Belfast for 9 or 10 months of the year it accounts for a substantial number of bed nights in Belfast as our hotels accommodate travelling teams and their supporters who are all spending in the city."
The All-Party Assembly Group on Rugby is chaired by Alastair Ross, MLA for East Antrim.
"The Assembly shares many of the aims of Ulster Rugby, and certainly recognises the positive contribution that rugby can play in the community, whether that be in terms of promoting a healthier way of life, teaching discipline or as a means of enjoying the social side of the game in clubs across the province," he said.
"We also recognise the specific challenges that lie ahead if the sport is to grow and attract greater participation amongst sections of the community who have not traditionally identified with rugby football.
"I would hope that through the APG we can play our part in helping to grow rugby in Northern Ireland and ensure that Ulster continue to be recognised as one of the leading professional teams in Europe."
Members of the All-Party Assembly Group on Rugby -
Chairperson: Alastair Ross MLA (East Antrim)
Vice-Chairperson: Judith Cochrane MLA (Belfast East)
Members: Barry McElduff MLA (West Tyrone)
Conall McDevitt MLA (Belfast South)
Simon Hamilton MLA (Strangford)
Basil McCrea MLA (Lagan Valley)
John McCallister MLA (South Down)
Chris Lyttle MLA (Belfast East)
Michelle McIlveen MLA (Strangford)
Colum Eastwood MLA (Foyle)