Saturday 19 January 2019

Poll: Has rugby become 'the people's game' in Ireland? Newsdesk Newsdesk

A conversation on last night's Against The Head programme on RTÉ has sparked debate today.

Presenter Daire O'Brien claimed that the following for rugby resembled the interest generated by the Jack Charlton era and hurling in the mid-90s despite playing numbers in the sport being considerably less than soccer and gaelic games.

"Rugby’s huge in this country. I’ve been covering it for two decades and you might have got viewership figures of 50 or 60,000 for the Six Nations — now they would be over a million," said panellist Brent Pope.

O’Brien interjected: "Every crevasse of Irish life… everybody goes somewhere to watch the game, everybody has an opinion. Arguably, it’s the people’s game."

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan added: "The demographic has changed, probably in the last 15 years, in particular. There are much more people engaged with the game, but not necessarily going to games.

"If you think back to before that change, most people who went to rugby games would be somehow involved in the club game. They would be attached to a club. The vast majority of people going to Leinster, Munster, Ulster or Connacht [now] wouldn’t necessarily go to any club games at all or have any affiliation. Their club is their province, and that’s a big change."

Bernard Jackman believes the IRFU deserve credit for how interest in rugby has grown in recent years.

"They’ve have employed RDOs [Regional Development Officers], YDOs [Youth Development Officers] going into schools that have never played rugby,” said the Dragons head coach," he said

"So little boys and girls who aren’t from a rugby areas are getting access to that because the IRFU and the government are paying for it."

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