A few years ago I played a bit of a cruel prank on my social media followers.
The day before the launch of a new Leinster shirt, while the design was under wraps, I posted a tweet which read "LEINSTER FANS! NEW JERSEY HERE>>>;" and the arrows pointed to a link which in turn led to a map of the US state of New Jersey.
Yeah, I know, I'm evil.
Anyways, karma clearly hasn't gotten me back for that just yet, because earlier this morning I had the immense privilege of being one of the first to witness the unveiling of the new Ireland home & away test kits from Canterbury.
But it wasn't just a case of us (there were a couple of dozen fans present altogether) showing up and seeing the jersey and being sent on our way. We were invited to Carton House no less, where we got to watch pretty much a full training session (sorry no photos!) before being given an early lunch and finally the main event you see above.
And as an added bonus, before the players came out we had a little talk from none other than Joe Schmidt himself. He talked about why they needed the time with the players yesterday and today (it was pretty much a full session with even injured players like Johnny Sexton in attendance)
We were given sheets of paper on which we were to write questions for the players. One of mine was put by presenter Damian O'Meara to Kieran Marmion : "Who was your favourite player as a schoolboy?", to which he replied (paraphrase) : "Well I grew up in England so I guess it was Jonny Wilkinson!" - that did not go down well with the crowd, but only in a lighthearted way!
Then the Ireland skipper Mr P O'Connell himself handed out a jersey to each of us before we got them signed by all the players, and there was plenty of time for selfies and such as well.
Reaction to the jersey itself has been mixed on social media I see, with a common complaint being the "3" makes it look too much like the soccer jersey. Well my take on it is that if we continue the success we've enjoyed under Joe Schmidt so far, we won't give a monkeys what the jersey looks like - we'll want to be seen in it.
Sponsorship is part & parcel of the pro game and maybe the 3 logo takes something from the jersey compared to the O2 one but the money they put into the game has to make up for that and I also reckon it is more than made up for by the switch to Canterbury from the previous supplier.
But in the meantime many thanks to the IRFU, Canterbury and Carton House for the hospitality this morning. I can't wait to watch the lads squaring up the likes of the Springboks & Wallabies in the new clobber this November. JLP
THE NEW JERSEYS (HOME AND AWAY) WILL BE AVAILABLE FROM THIS COMING SATURDAY IN THE IRISH RUGBY SHOP, CLICK THE BANNER AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE TO PRE-ORDER