Irish fans to stay away over prices
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has been passed fit to face South Africa on Saturday but the country's rugby bosses warned that cash-strapped supporters were set to stay away after their sales strategy went badly wrong.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said there would be empty seats at its new 50,000-capacity Aviva Stadium despite almost 75,000 fans turning up to Ireland's temporary home of Croke Park a year ago to watch them beat the world champions.
"I think it's fair to say we're not going to have a capacity crowd at the opening match on Saturday," IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said in an interview on national radio RTE.
"We've put our hands up. We have made a mistake relating to our ticketing strategy and we are dealing with the reality of this on the ground."
The IRFU initially bound tickets together at a price of 340 euros (£297) - giving fans no choice but to attend all four games - before splitting the packages into two following criticism from the public and politicians.
The average price of 85 euro (£75) per ticket is still far higher than the £10 to £45 Scottish fans will pay for next week's match at home to New Zealand and Browne said not having a spread of ticket prices was a mistake.
Ireland coach Declan Kidney confirmed that O'Driscoll had recovered from a hamstring injury to lead out the side and avoid joining British and Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell and fellow Munsterman Tomas O'Leary on the sidelines.
Mick O'Driscoll replaces O'Connell at second row while Eoin Reddan takes over from O'Leary at scrum half. Reddan's Leinster team mate Luke Fitzgerald also returns on the wing following almost a year away from international rugby with injury.
Team: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Gordon D'Arcy, 11-Luke Fitzgerald, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Eoin Reddan; 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-David Wallace, 6-Stephen Ferris, 5-Mick O'Driscoll, 4-Donncha O'Callaghan, 3-Tony Buckley, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Tom Court, 18-Donnacha Ryan, 19-Denis Leamy, 20-Peter Stringer, 21-Ronan O'Gara, 22-Keith Earls/ Andrew Trimble/ Paddy Wallace.