10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
The Rabo Direct PRO12 tournament and the Heineken Cup games continue to exhilarate on the provincial front and the heartbeat quickens as we count down to Ireland's upcoming GUINNESS Series games.
To have two of the top teams in world rugby, South Africa and Argentina, coming to the Aviva Stadium and Fiji displaying their traditional free-flowing style of rugby at Thomond Park, is certainly causing a stir in interest and support.
For me, our captain Brian O'Driscoll perfectly summed up the anticipation when he said: "Playing in the Ireland jersey at home for your country is always something very special and it still hasn't become any less of a buzz."
I know you will join me in wishing every success to Brian and his squad and to head coach Declan Kidney and his management team.
A delightful early experience of being IRFU President is the opportunity the office provides to communicate with the grassroots game. Its well-being is very much to the forefront of Union policy, more so in these tough economic times which present many challenges to our game from top down.
I am delighted therefore that the IRFU 'Your Club, Your Country' draw initiative, in association with Community Rugby Partner Ulster Bank, has the potential to raise over €1 million for our hard pressed clubs.
Speaking of community affairs, I was delighted to attend the HSE Community Games national finals at the magnificent Athlone Institute of Technology.
I commend the hard work and dedication of all the volunteers who organised the weekend of sporting and cultural activities, including rugby, and which saw almost 2,500 children participate in 'a spirit of friendly rivalry'.
There was truly an ambience of camaraderie and good fellowship at the Clarion Hotel in Carrickfergus for the black tie dinner marking the Larne RFC Centenary Year Ball, hosted by genial club President Paul Montgomery.
I gladly took the opportunity to congratulate the club and thank them for the - coincidental - fact that they named their grounds in my name, the Glynn!
Credit to Larne, its reputation is well respected beyond the confines of Antrim and Ulster. It has an enviable standing as a vibrant community-based club.
This kinship is precisely what the IRFU and the provincial Branches want to see developed in the future in order to ensure the welfare of the club and grassroots game going forward.
Just as Larne Rugby Club has demonstrated to good effect (they also have facilities for archery, darts and squash), I believe clubs must become more multi-faceted and engrossed in their local community.
Rugby clubs must open their doors so that the clubs becomes a mecca for everyone in the locality, with activities, be they sporting or social, not confined to the oval ball! Well done Larne and best wishes for your next 100 years.
May I also congratulate my own club, Galwegians, on the unveiling of much positive activity already this season. I had the proud pleasure of accompanying the Mayor of Galway Terry O'Flaherty and club President Colm O'Donnellan in the formal switch on of a new floodlit system.
It brings a whole new dimension to facilities at Crowley Park, including the option of playing Ulster Bank League matches on Friday nights. To mark the switch-on milestone, the new lights were inaugurated with matches by the Under-16s, the ladies, the Over-40s and firsts.
All the games were played in great spirit and mirrored the activities and varied interests of a club that has also unveiled greatly refurbished clubhouse facilities. This season 'Wegians are also celebrating 90 years in existence at the heart of Connacht rugby.
I am delighted to note that many clubs are currently pursuing the notion of adding match floodlights to their facilities which, as in the case of Galwegians, provides the added option of staging games outside the traditional Saturday-Sunday slots.
'Friday Night Lights' has certainly gained in popularity judging by the uplift of interest in the Ulster Bank League fixtures.
The floodlit options, also being used by the junior teams, together with the popularity of the new format in the Ulster Bank League are having the effect of generating greater activity at clubs on and off the pitch.
After the exciting climax to last season, we can expect even more top class club rugby action in the coming months when many games will be streamed live on Irish Rugby TV.
As a clubman at heart, I love the buzz on matchdays and I hope to attend matches and functions at as many clubs as possible during my Presidential year.
For example, I was delighted to go along to the Belfield Bowl and watch UCD and Bruff and then to watch Galway Corinthians and De La Salle Palmerston.
This is also a special year for Corinthians as they mark the 80th anniversary since their foundation. Through club President Johnny Campbell, I extend my best wishes to all at Corinthian Park for this special season.
Ending on a sad note, I reflect with much heartbreak on the tragedy that befell the Spence family. What happened to Nevin, his brother Graham and father Noel was a terrible tragedy.
It brought a huge outpouring of emotion, not just in Ulster, to which Nevin was contracted as one of its brightest up and coming stars, but across the entire rugby world.
I was amongst many thousands who paid tribute to the family between the funeral at the Baptist Church in Ballynahinch and again for a Memorial Service at Ravenhill, the pitch upon which Nevin demonstrated the potential to become an Ireland international.
On behalf of the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Irish rugby family, I express my deepest condolences to Nevin's mother Essie, his sisters Emma and Laura and to Graham's wife Andrea. May their dearest ones rest in peace.
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