Respect suffers as rugby losing manners, fears Paul Wallace

Following the ironic cheering of Munster out-half Ian Keatley against Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup last Saturday, former Irish international prop Paul Wallace believes that the influence of supporters in other sports is starting to creep into provincial rugby in Ireland.
Respect suffers as rugby losing manners, fears Paul Wallace

Recalling his time growing up in the province, Wallace said that supporters always behaved in a mannerly fashion, but has noticed a sea change in recent times.

“As someone who grew up playing in Munster rugby, it is certainly not like that. Your die-hard fans are incredibly respectful. You think of the silence before kicking was pretty much a Thomond Park thing, and it has spread out,” Wallace remarked yesterday.

“I used to go up and watch club games back in the day, when it was big. There was always a healthy rivalry amongst the supporters, but always very mannerly, and after the game it was always fine.

“The same has happened throughout. In Ulster it’s happened as well, it’s happened in Leinster too. I guess one of the great things about rugby, is how mannerly supporters are, and there has been a little bit of a sea change. Where they’ve taken in what would be fair game in some other sports, if you’re supporting them. [That] isn’t really in the rugby culture. I do think a bit of that has crept in.”

Wallace is also disappointed at the way some supporters are now staying away from Munster games, insisting they should follow the side through thick and thin.

“Munster fans, like Leinster and Ulster fans, have always been great. I find it quite disappointing in Munster mainly, where some of these people will do anything to get to the matches when Munster are winning.

“Now because it is on a Sunday night, or it doesn’t suit for a night out, they don’t bother driving the hour-and-a-half to the match.

“Supporters should be there through thick and thin. You’re never quite going to get the crowds when you’re not as successful,”

Wallace (who played with both Munster and Leinster during an eventful playing career) was joined by former Leinster flanker Kevin McLaughlin at Sky Ireland HQ for a preview of Leinster’s Champions Cup encounter with Toulon at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

McLaughlin announced his retirement in September after he was told that he would be increasingly susceptible to concussion if he continued to play, but as he explains, he was handed a temporary backroom role by Leo Cullen in recent weeks.

“I was actually over in Toulon [for last Sunday’s 24-9 defeat] and spoke to the team a little bit before the game and spoke about my time in Leinster. How it was an obsession for me and everything I did was Leinster orientated and I spoke a little bit about a few of my memories.

“I’m not formally still involved in Leinster, but I did say to Leo if there’s anything I can do before I start my job in January, that I’d be happy to help out. I was delighted to be able to go over to Toulon. It was an emotional enough time for me, being my last ever away trip.”

In relation to the return fixture with the reigning champions on Saturday, McLaughlin feels Leinster are capable of upsetting the odds, but can see reasons to be wary of Toulon, who suffered heavy defeat to Wasps in their opening Pool 5 outing.

“I see it being a tight game. I see us having a great opportunity of winning if we execute better, because we were there or thereabouts last week. But I also see Toulon realising that they need to play better, seeing as they are coming to the Aviva. They’ve already lost a game, they can’t afford to lose another one.

“We may be pretty much out of Europe at this stage, but you talk about playing for pride or playing to kick our season into gear.

“There’s so much at stake for both teams. There’s a huge amount at stake. Like we do every week, we’ll back ourselves to win,” McLaughlin added.

Leinster v Toulon is live on Sky Sports 3 on Saturday from 5pm. The fixture is part of a bumper line-up on Sky Sports this festive season which includes European rugby, Premier League football and darts.

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