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Flat atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium not helped by Irish rugby fans treating matches as a social occasion

There are plenty of supporters who would sing and chant if they could procure tickets yet there were non-occupied seats in the Lower East and Havelock Square ends on Saturday

Another record-equalling Irish win in the Six Nations and another record-extending Irish home win to move within two wins of unprecedented territory. And another flat occasion at the Aviva Stadium. This is the best Irish team ever. But this certainly won’t last forever. This mightn’t even last much longer. This team deserves better.

At least most of the crowd were still in situ and engaged when Tadhg Beirne scored with the last play of Saturday’s game. When Jamison Gibson-Park’s finish with the last play against Italy was ruled out, there was hardly a murmur either way. Most were heading for the exits. They hadn’t even noticed.

As for Zombie being blared out immediately afterwards? Well, it sure ain’t Bordeaux, Nantes or Stade de France. Instead the pubs are calling and the seats are emptying rapidly.

For sure it’s not the World Cup. And supporters haven’t come from all over the world, paid a fortune and worn the colours to be there to anything like the same extent. But how many of the 50,000 or so Irish fans who were in the Stade de France for the South Africa, Scotland and New Zealand games were able to procure tickets for this year’s Six Nations games? Very few, one would venture.


And therein lies the rub. This has been an issue for years. Yes, it’s good when the All Blacks come to town, and it was good on Paddy’s Day for the Slam/Johnny Sexton coronation. But wept, shouldn’t it be?

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The three comparative home games over two seasons, including a final Saturday teatime shot at the title and Triple Crown against Scotland in 2022, were lamentably lacking in atmosphere. Are the tickets ending up in the hands of real fans? For example, readers have said that they counted over 50 non-occupied seats in the Lower East and Havelock Square ends. What the hell is going on there?

There are plenty of supporters out there who would sing, chant and generate an atmosphere if they could procure tickets for this is also the most popular Irish rugby side ever. The TV figures underline it. The Italian game on Virgin Media TV drew 884,000 and a 70 per cent market share, which given it was Italy at home on a Sunday and clashing with Man United is unbelievable. France was 1.19 million and a 74 per cent audience share, as well as another 200,000 on the Virgin Media player.

This is not far off the World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand, which drew 1.38 million viewers and a 78 per cent audience share, plus another 290,000 on streams. Nor is it far off the final leg of the Grand Slam against England last March, which had an average audience of 1.013 million, which equated to a 73 per cent share, and reached 1.065 million for the trophy-lift, making it the biggest live sporting event since 2017 at that point

For sure it doesn’t help that there has been a lack of jeopardy in this year’s Irish wins. Nor that as usual the pre-match build-up is both overlong and pathetic. Two Irish Anthems don’t help but the French and the Scots do it much better, encouraging the supporters to be involved by chanting the players’ surnames, by stopping the band to sing their anthems a cappella.

It also doesn’t help that many fans seem to regard Irish Six Nations games as social occasions, akin to an open-air party/dining/drinking occasion. It’s simply a case of prioritising the actual sport!

Attending major Croke Park occasions, patrons are not permitted to bring drinks back to their seats, with the purchase of alcohol restricted to before, half time and after the game. Attending the St Patrick’s Athletic-Bohemians FAI Cup final fans were allowed drink all they wanted during the game, but not permitted to bring their drinks back to the seats.

Enforcing either approach at the Aviva for Irish rugby games would be a start.

Have Your Say: Do you think the atmosphere at Ireland’s Six Nations matches in the Aviva has been ‘flat’?

Ireland’s toughest opponents await

At its most basic level what this 2024 Guinness Six Nations has seemingly demonstrated so far is that England, Wales and Italy remain works in progress under new coaching tickets, whereas Ireland have carried on seamlessly, and Scotland have also maintained consistency under the longest serving head coach in the Championship, while France have gone backwards.

And in many ways that has been the story of the tournament so far.

Hence, another cautionary note arising from the first three rounds, and perhaps the clarification that has come with round three, is that maybe Ireland’s toughest two opponents still await.

In the Netflix series Galthié talks charmingly and plenty about French flair, but like much in that series, it looks pre-scripted. There is certainly scant evidence of flair in this French team even if results have averted the guillotine to date. But his sarcastic dealings with the media last week, when refuting the clarion call for new blood by maintaining the French team was not a reality show, haven’t helped.

Increasingly he looks less like a dude, and more like an emperor without clothes. Alternatively, maybe Galthié's luck is in as were it not for referee/TMO calls in the last two games they would be three defeats from three.

World Rugby’s laws regarding penalties clearly state “the opposing team must stand still with their hands by their sides from the time the kicker starts to approach to kick until the ball is kicked”.

Law 8.227 also states: “If the opposing team infringes while the kick is being taken but the kick at goal is successful, the goal stands and a further penalty is not awarded. If the kick is unsuccessful the non-offending team is awarded a penalty 10 metres in front of the original mark.”

Wayne Barnes suggesting that Garbisi or the Italians should have pointed out that the French players Francois Cros and Sebastien Taofifenua had separately run forward is a nonsense. It’s up to the officials to officiate.

Admittedly, it was a tricky episode for all concerned, and one complicated by the advent of the shot clock, which both compounded the confusion yet was designed with something like this in mind.

Furthermore, if Christophe Ridley and his officials had correctly interpreted the laws of the game and decreed a retaken penalty 10 metres closer to the posts they’d have been advised to leave the car engines running and with a police escort to the airport.