The International Rugby Board has given the green light to a host of radical measures designed to bring fans closer than ever to the game.
Worried that the forthcoming summer tours to the southern hemisphere by England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland are not generating enough momentum, a team of marketeers has been appointed by the Home Unions to spice up what is on offer and make sure the fans are fully engaged with the fixtures.
The extremely controversial endorsement of the proposals by the IRB mean that all players will be expected to interact with fans via social media before, during and after games by using extra durable smartphones which will be carried in a special pouch on new high-tech jerseys.
"Rugby can't stand still and rely on the game alone to appeal to fans," said Michael Drew, head of the marketing team appointed to oversee the summer tours. "We need to move forward. Rugby's slowly been getting a little more interactive over the years. First, back in the nineteenth century you could sing, clap and shout when attending a game. Decades later you were able to wear your replica shirts to show your colours off to the world and support the lads.
"Then, just a few years ago, you could start to buy radios to listen to the match official whilst sitting in the stadium. It's only natural, therefore, that the next step is allowing fans to vote, via Facebook apps on their smartphones, on what substitutions the coach should make. Or that players Tweet their unique view on the action whilst it is actually happening. It's a very natural progression and we think it is going to be great fun for all concerned."
The IRB are keen to stress that the social media initiative is for this summer only and will be reviewed before being implemented in the Six Nations, Rugby World Cup or any other major tournament.
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