The sport of rugby union is on track to become the most popular sport in Ireland with an estimated 60 million people tuning in to watch games each year.
The sport has a rich history in Ireland, having been first played in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the late 16th century, and the first two games have now been played in Ireland.
But with the sport attracting a lot of new fans, the Irish Rugby Union has been looking at a change in direction and looking to improve its broadcasting and commercial interests.
In April it announced it was buying a controlling stake in Sky Sports for €5.8 billion ($6.7 billion), with a goal of turning the sport into a global broadcaster and having more than 30 million subscribers by 2020.
The move was hailed by fans and players alike, but the move was met with criticism and protests from some quarters.
The Irish Rugby Association is currently struggling to attract a sufficient number of fans and has faced criticism for the way it has dealt with the backlash.
Irish Rugby Union chief executive Pat Lam said that in the long run the move would make the sport more attractive to advertisers.
“Our goal is to build on our success by developing our sport into the world’s leading sport, and we have to do that in a way that is consistent with our values of fairness and respect,” he said.
“We also want to attract new fans who are passionate about the game and we are committed to doing that by ensuring we have an inclusive environment for all.”
The move follows a recent announcement by the Irish Government that it would not be providing funding for the national side to play the World Cup in 2019.
The World Cup has attracted significant media interest, but many Irish players have said they feel the sport is being overlooked in terms of the popularity of rugby league and the Rugby World Cup.
“There’s no question that our game is the most well-known sport in Europe and the world,” said Ryan Crotty, the Wales international.
“I don’t think that’s been represented at all in any of the world games.
It’s really been the most important game of the year, the biggest sporting event in the world.”