O’Driscoll pleads with Irish fans but Springboks game won’t be sell-out
ON the day that IRFU chief executive Philip Browne acknowledged that Saturday's Test against South Africa would not be a sell-out, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll stressed the importance of playing in front of full houses.
The IRFU's ticketing policy has caused widespread anger and the lack of demand for the November Internationals forced the Union into a climb-down on their sales policy this week, following concerted pressure from the clubs.
"I think it's fair to say we're not going to have a capacity crowd at the opening match on Saturday," said Browne yesterday. "We've put our hands up. We have made a mistake relating to our ticketing strategy."
Not being able to fill the new Aviva Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 50,000, against the world champions is an embarrassing situation for the IRFU given that 75,000 attended last year's fixture at Croke Park. And O'Driscoll, who was yesterday named in the side to face the Springboks after recovering from a hamstring injury, stressed the importance of playing in front of capacity attendances.
"We want, as a team, to be playing in front of as many people as we possibly can," said the Ireland captain.
"We want to be supported by packed houses because that's what you get your buzz from. They can be a worth a score to you at vital times but we're certainly not going to get caught up in the ins and outs of what has been going on with the ticket affair."
Declan Kidney echoed those sentiments and said he was aware of the financial pressures on rugby supporters in the difficult economic climate.
"Hands have been held up to say errors were made but these things happen in life," said Kidney. "We have to represent Ireland as best we can and hopefully as many people as possible will watch us.
"Coming from Cork myself, I know the things involved in travelling to watch Ireland and I'll never take the support we get for granted. Times are different now and that puts more onus on us to represent the jersey properly."
O'Driscoll will lead a powerful team out on Saturday, with 16 survivors from the 22 that landed the Grand Slam in Cardiff nearly two years ago.
Luke Fitzgerald returns to the left-wing for his first international in nearly a year while Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan start at half-back with Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer on the bench. In the forwards, Mick O'Driscoll is at second-row alongside Donncha O'Callaghan and Rory Best reclaims the hooking spot from Sean Cronin after missing the summer tour.
David Wallace starts at openside flanker alongside Jamie Heaslip and Stephen Ferris with Denis Leamy providing back-row back-up and no room for Leinster's Sean O'Brien.
A decision on the final replacement spot will be made later in the week with Keith Earls, Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace all in the frame.