From the office of the President of the Irish Rugby Football Union, I extend a very Happy Christmas and safe and peaceful New Year to all our rugby family.
Christmas time marks a halfway point in the rugby season and if the uplifting style and quality demonstrated by of our national team against Argentina signed off 2012 on a wonderful high; I believe that Irish rugby can look forward to more good fortune in 2013.
As President, I want to share with you my optimism for our game across all levels. I also want to outline how, travelling around the island, I am greatly sustained by the vibrancy I am witnessing in our clubs. I have been struck also by the high number of underage participants.
I am also pleased to note an increase in the numbers of girls playing the game and the growing numbers of parents getting involved in club activities. It all augurs well for the future.
Irish rugby is further reinforced by the high levels of spectator numbers attending our games. The appetite consistently demonstrated by our growing rugby fraternity is the envy of many other Nations.
Handsomely-filled stadia for our provincial games and capacity crowds for matches involving the national team send out a positive indicator to the world’s rugby community about the strength of the Irish rugby brand.
This is a decisive communication at a time when the IRFU is considering a formal bid to stage the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
The Aviva Stadium will certainly be buzzing come February and March when England and France come for the RBS 6 Nations Championship. Tickets are already at a premium.
As the New Year unfolds, it will also be a busy and exciting time across the full spectrum of the Irish rugby landscape. It offers a wonderfully varied menu of attractive fare.
In addition to the challenges by our provinces in the Heineken Cup and RaboDirect PRO12, I believe that the plentiful activities in our clubs, schools, third level and women’s game and in the communities will provide much joy and fulfillment for the many thousands of male and female players, parents and volunteers now active in our game.
The Lions tour to Australia, an Ireland team tour to Canada and the USA; the IRB Junior World Championship in France and the notable milestone of the Ireland Women’s team competing for a first time in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow are other highlights that underlines the appeal of Irish rugby in 2013.
As a proud west of Ireland man, I am also looking forward to being at the Sportsground on January 25 for the Ireland Wolfhounds v England Saxons game.
The decision to stage a fixture of this status in Galway is a further expression of IRFU confidence in the progress being made in Connacht, particularly in the upgraded facilities at the Sportsground, the result of handsome support by the Union and by the Irish Sports Council.
Happy Christmas to all.
Billy Glynn, IRFU President