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Rugby stars banned from Twitter before big match

IRELAND'S rugby players have been banned from Twitter ahead of the big Welsh game.

It is understood that the squad have agreed not to engage with their online followers in the hours before and after the Six Nations match.

Fans have enjoyed an unedited insight into the stars' private lives and were able to connect with the likes of captain Brian O'Driscoll and full back Rob Kearney.

But this will not happen in the 24 hours after the match and in the hours before the game.

It is believed that the decision was reached after a number of players had exchanges with fans after the close match with Scotland.

Team manager Paul McNaughton said that the entire team have not been banned from tweeting generally.

"But around match time the squad have agreed to extend the period of time when there will be no tweeting," he said.

"We don't see it as a big issue, but there was a lot made of some of the correspondence between some of the players and some of their followers.

"We are developing the policy anyway because it will have to be a fairly rigid one in terms of the World Cup," he added.

"Not so much in what they say to fans but in terms of commercial arrangements."

O'Driscoll caused controversy when he posted a message one fan had sent him telling him he should retire from the game gracefully.

Full back Rob Kearney and number 8 Jamie Heaslip are among the most prolific twitterers and regularly post pictures and respond to fans. Heaslip gives fans an insight into his personal life online and within the past week he posted pictures of the Tinie Tempah gig, the view out of his window and pictures of the new love of his life -- his dog Jay Z.

Followers saw a video of the players larking about in the team hotel before a game.

In one online video, Jamie Heaslip sneaks up on Cian Healy -- who was having a nap -- and tips the couch over on to the ground.

clairemurphy@herald.ie