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Rugby: Irish rugby ‘burning’ $9million a month in running costs

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Irish rugby’s leading official Philip Browne has issued a dire warning that IRFU business is in financial peril due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions that see matches taking place behind closed doors with no spectators present.

Rugby in Ireland returned last month with the restarted PRO14 season, a campaign that culminated in last Sunday’s title win by Leinster against Ulster at a deserted Aviva Stadium.

That emptiness will continue this weekend with Leinster hosting Saracens with no fans present in Dublin and Irish officials are gravely concerned about their bottom line if current pandemic restrictions continue into the winter and force them to play their series of home Test matches in the Six Nations and the Nations Cup behind closed doors.

Speaking ahead of the likely introduction of further restrictions for the Dublin area due to a recent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, IRFU CEO Philip Browne presented a grim outlook to an Irish Government committee.

He outlined how Irish Rugby’s net losses in 2020 as a result of Covid-19 are forecasted to amount to in excess of €30m (NZ$53m), and the union’s financial situation will deteriorate “at an alarming rate” into 2021 if spectators do not return to stadia in meaningful numbers.

He further warned that despite the implementation of cost-cutting measures across the union, including salary cuts of up to 20 percent, redundancies and the elimination of all but the most critical overhead costs, the IRFU’s current financial position was not sustainable and would require “significant additional actions” after December if there was no sight of supporters returning at that point.

Browne added that the IRFU will be forced to commence borrowings in January, forecasting that until “we can admit spectators in meaningful numbers into our stadia, and return to some level approaching self-sustainability, the whole rugby infrastructure built over the last 150 years is under threat”.

He said it was anticipated that the IRFU will continue to “burn” at least €5m a month, primarily on professional game wages and costs, if the situation does not improve and warned that “the very existence of professional rugby on the island would be under significant threat in 2021”.

“The adjective ‘unprecedented’ has been overused over the past six months but our experience to date and history will show that if anything, the description of the 2019/20 season as being unprecedented is significantly understated,” said Browne, appearing at the meeting on The Impact of Covid-19 on Team Sport in Ireland alongside representatives from the FAI and GAA.

“Our season, and our business operations, were thrown into chaos by the Covid-19 pandemic in March when our Ireland vs Italy Six Nations fixtures became the first mass gatherings to be cancelled. This represented the first major blow to our sport and finances.

“Pre-Covid our financial situation was looking quite positive. Now we are facing an unprecedented cashflow crisis as we try to work towards the objectives of protecting our national and provincial teams, ensuring that we preserve the amateur club game and support the jobs of our 500 employees to the extent that we can.

“The current projected position to the end of June 2021, showing a negative cash swing of almost €40m from a cash surplus of some €28m in June 2020, to borrowings of just over €10m, backed by union assets, is very serious and is being kept under constant review.

“If these projections were to materialise, the very existence of professional rugby on the island would be under significant threat in 2021. Our audited financial statements for the period to July 31, 2020, will show an actual record financial loss of more than €35m.

“Back in January 2020, we were forecasting for a planned deficit of €3.5. Until we can admit spectators in meaningful numbers into our stadia, and return to some level approaching self-sustainability, the whole rugby infrastructure built over the last 150 years is under threat.

“We will, of course, continue to follow NPHET and public health guidelines in relation to this, but that support comes at a significant cost to our sport. It is our ambition, with the support of Government, to survive as a properly functioning unit and in this way repay the faith shown in us by playing our part in supporting the national recovery effort which will demand so much of us all in the years to come.

“We believe that rugby has a significant role to play in the physical and mental wellbeing of Irish people, and in the face of this cruel pandemic we continue to have a positive contribution to public health and Irish society and hope to do so for years to come.”

This story was originally published on Rugbypass and was republished here with permission.

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Autumn of Romain Ntamack, Tadhg Furlong and thrill of the unexpected reminded us why rugby is to be treasured | Sport

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Impossibly exquisite. That was how my colleague John Westerby described a part of the glorious attack from deep launched by Romain Ntamack of France which electrified the match against New Zealand last Saturday, one already illuminating the whole arena of global rugby. As he weaved his sumptuous path, Ntamack was effectively staging the opening ceremony for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France. He and his team made you wish away the next two years, made you wish to devour now the champagne placed on ice for the big one.

All the talk last weekend was that when rugby is played like that, it is still the greatest sport of all. In favour of this motion were the performances of France and Ireland, a few lovely

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France and Ireland hit stride as England’s experiments go on | Sport

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There are “famous” wins and the downright anonymous. Ireland beat a battered Argentina side 53-7 last Sunday. It may have been a wide-margin victory but it will not linger in Irish minds. Rewind to the previous Saturday and we witnessed the stuff of legend as Ireland outplayed New Zealand. The winning scoreline of 29-20 flattered the All Blacks.

Ireland have been here before. There was the excitement of 2016 in Chicago as well as a first win in Dublin in 2018. The latter win sealed a superb season; a grand slam and dreams of World Cup glory. The euphoria lasted until England shattered their dreams in Dublin to kick off the 2019 Six Nations.

The adrenaline of a famous win cannot be replicated. The

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Six Nations Rugby | Barbarians put South Africa to the sword in front of record crowd

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The Barbarians dominated the first half, with USA’s Sarah Levy crossing the whitewash twice and scores from Daley-Mclean, France’s Lenaig Corson, Scotland’s Rhona Lloyd and Natasha Hunt of England.

Lindsay Peat and Simi Pam finished after half-time as did Levy to complete her hat-trick, while outgoing Ireland captain Ciara Griffin also scored on her final international appearance.

The Barbarians made a rapid start and, after winning a scrum on the five-metre line, Daley-Mclean’s cross-field kick found Levy in space on the wing to take the catch and dot down.

Daley-Mclean produced a second outstanding kick to convert the try before the game turned into an arm wrestle around the halfway line.

However, Daley-Mclean continued her excellent afternoon with a try of her own after stepping inside off the left wing, averting last-ditch tackles in the process to cross the whitewash.

She couldn’t convert that one, but she got another chance after Corson finished off a Hunt line break from close range, and this time her kick was good.

The Baa-Baas scored their fourth from a midfield scrum that went out wide, leading to a line break by Lloyd, and she didn’t need any help as she sensationally skipped past several South African defenders to score.

Daley-Mclean made it 26-0 inside 25 minutes, before Levy scored her second out wide and the skipper Hunt got a try of her own as she picked up a loose ball and ran it under the posts from distance.

The Springboks were much improved in the second half, but the Baa-Baas went over 10 minutes after the restart as Ireland prop Peat touched down at the back of a maul.

Levy wrapped up her hat-trick before Pam scored from a close range pick-and-go after coming off the bench to put her side 55-0 ahead.

South Africa could have scored with 10 minutes remaining, but England’s Katie Mason made a superb try-saving tackle on Ayanda Malinga to push her into touch.

Five minutes later, Malinga scored the best try of the game, shrugging off four defenders from 15 metres out to score.

Griffin scored the last try but, like her fellow Irish forward, she couldn’t convert as the Barbarians came away 60-5 winners.

The contest was moved forwards to an afternoon kick-off after the Barbarians men’s game against Samoa was cancelled due to six positive Covid-19 cases in the Barbarians camp.

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