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Empty Aviva fear haunts Ireland boss

By Hugh Farrelly

Ireland manager Paul McNaughton has made a desperate plea to supporters as fears grow that next Saturday's international against Samoa could take place in a Lansdowne Road stadium which is less than half-full.

The supporters' boycott against the ticketing policy for the November series is set to be maintained this weekend as the battle for hearts and minds continues to be lost by the IRFU.

“I'm not ashamed to say that I would ask those people to come to the match,” said McNaughton, manager of an Ireland side that have lost six successive games. “If they have got tickets they might think the small game is the Samoa game. It's not a small game for us.

“I'm not immune to all this. I'm a member of a rugby club myself and I talk to people every day about it so. The bond is still there.

“We were all very disappointed at that situation at the weekend where there were 35,000 people there.

“The IRFU have obviously put up their hand in terms of the mess that was made. In terms of this game, it is a very important game for us. We need to get back on the winning trail.”

While thousands paid for tickets and didn't even bother to turn up for Saturday's dismal fare, those in charge were forced to spend the rest of their weekend watching incessant repeats of the video nasty.

For the coaches looking on, they clearly knew what was logically expected of their intelligent charges against a behemoth pack.

Somehow, this was either miscommunicated to the players or the on-field leaders chose to ignore it. If they were unable to anticipate for themselves any such memos of modus operandi, then that is extremely worrying.

Alan Gaffney, whose back-line spectacularly misfired when operating at even the most rudimentary level, was still seething at the entire operation when he fronted up yesterday.

“We've done a detailed analysis on what happened on the weekend,” he sighed. “We're not particularly happy with what occurred. Unfortunately it did occur and we're not running away from it.

“The performance wasn't what it should have been and there isn't one person who would have been happy with it. There's been a lot said about the fact that we could have kicked more ball.

“We had 12 line-outs in the game and every one of those was in the opposition half so we did something right to get into that position to play. But obviously we weren't as accurate as we should have been and therefore didn't reap the rewards.

“Our ball retention was poor, right across the pitch. I don't know if we got beyond three phases in any part of the game whereas South Africa regularly got to 12 phases.”

Ulster’s Rory Best, bravely taking the flak for an appaling group effort in Ireland's line-out, for once hit the target by adding that: “we didn't arrive at the ground for whatever reason.”

Unfortunately, thousands of disenfranchised supporters had already agreed with him by kick-off.

Sadly, thousands more may follow suit as a tussle with Samoa — especially based on last Saturday's tawdry evidence — is hardly the most enticing of ways to flutter away what seems like a weekly wage on a visit to Lansdowne Road's newest library.

Munster prop Tony Buckley will not play again this month after suffering a hip flexor injury. Rob Kearney (knee) will miss this week's game also but will return for Saturday week's clash with the All Blacks.

Geordan Murphy and John Muldoon will play for the respective club sides against Australia and Samoa this evening and will not be available this morning.

Leinster's Isaac Boss, Mike Ross and Fergus McFadden, Ulster back-row Chris Henry and Munster hooker Damien Varley have been added to the squad.

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