In June this year the Irish rugby team will come to Australia. At the same time as the Irish rugby tour State of Origin will be in full swing and the Socceroos will be competing at the World Cup in Russia. In this market rugby would normally be in trouble – but not with the 6 nation’s champions coming to town.
With the huge number of Irish expatriates living in Australia, all three games could well be sell outs. Over 10 percent of Australians claim Irish ancestry on the census, and close to a third are estimated to be of Irish descent. There will be plenty of tourists coming from the Emerald Isle to watch as well!
Australian rugby already appears to be better placed than last year, based on Super Rugby results, and both the Waratahs and Reds are slowly winning back fans. This renewed interest in Australian rugby can only be boosted by the presence of a team that so many feel an affinity with.
This Irish rugby tour will also be the first three game series between Australia and Ireland. This in itself will attract a lot of interest from the Australian public.
The fact that Ireland are the 6 nation’s champions, and second best team in the world, will also spice up the clash. The series will be a good chance for both the Wallabies and the Irish to assess how they are placed leading up to the World Cup in Japan next year.
Serious rugby followers will be intrigued by the contrasting styles. The Wallabies will most likely play an attacking game and look to exploit turnover ball. Ireland has this year focused on holding onto the ball and building pressure, a tactic which has so far paid off.
The main threat to the rugby will be State of Origin. Game two of Origin will be on the same weekend and in the same city as the finale of the Irish rugby tour. In Sydney the rugby will be at Allianz stadium on the Saturday, while Origin will be at ANZ on the Sunday.
It is possible that some of those travelling for Origin will decide to check out the rugby too, but Sydneysiders are likely to choose only one. Despite this, the strong Irish contingent in Sydney, as well as rusted on Wallabies support, should ensure a decent crowd.
The Irish rugby tour in June should be a great advertisement for the code. As long as the Australian teams keep playing well interest will grow. Even if the Australian players do not live up to their end of the bargain, enough Irish supporters will turn out to make the tour a commercial success for Rugby Australia.