With much of the country following Irish institution Manchester United on Sky Sports, the good people of Against The Head on RTE elected to fire one across the bows in the name of a culture war.
The cornerstone of the argument put forth on RTE is that, while participation and attendance rates for rugby may be dwarfed by others, everyone has an opinion on The Rugby.
Host Daire O'Brien asserted that rugby is arguably now the "people's game", saying that "everyone has an opinion on the game". Brent Pope agreed, citing the fact that the players are more accessible in the sense that Ireland's top players are (mostly) based in Ireland, as opposed to the Irish soccer players.
In terms of public support, continued O'Brien, this team is approaching Jack's Army and the hurling's revolution years in the 1990s for the public's affections.
Eddie O'Sullivan identified a big demographic shift in the last 15 years, and finds more people engaged with the sport in Ireland than ever before. He also pointed out a shift in the allegiances of those on the terraces: no longer do those going have an affiliation with their local club. Instead, "their province is their club", according to Eddie. O'Sullivan was the best panelist on this debate, saying that the fact that the IRFU invested in four provinces at the dawn of professionalism has proved to be a success, as "everyone identifies with one of those provinces".
O'Brien and Pope also asserted that the stereotype of the rugby fan as a sheepskin-wearing denizen of D4 is a "thing of the past".
This Declaration of Independence by Rugby Country caught the, er, imagination of some of the more committed football and GAA folk online.
Ah lads.... https://t.co/CRUNzTZXtd
— Declan Lynch (@declynchwriter) March 6, 2018
"Not necessarily participating.... not necessarily going to games.... but..." #rugbycountry https://t.co/zS57GYY7fx
— Larry Ryan (@RyanLarry) March 6, 2018
GAA and soccer are the games of our people. And this unwarranted talk of rugby's place in society contributes to a wider analysis that is at times painful to listen to. https://t.co/zCjVXspT14
— Shane Stapleton (@ShaneSaint) March 6, 2018
How can it be "the people's game" when it's the fourth most popular sport in the country? In Limerick, the big rugby heartland outside south Dublin, there are eight rugby clubs and 69 GAA clubs. https://t.co/alil7rdZao
— Jonathan O'Brien (@obrien_jonathan) March 6, 2018
The people’s game? Seriously? 😂😂. A tired 6 nations format, a rare win over the All Blacks and a usually deluded expectation of a WC challenge. People’s game my hole 😂😂 https://t.co/R0kI5icURW
— Phelim Warren (@Freewheeler12) March 6, 2018
Watch the full debate here.