IRFU CEO Philip Browne has revealed the support for Ireland hit record levels over the last 12 months, but believes backing for the provinces has "room for growth".

Aviva Stadium sellouts for the New Zealand and Australia games last autumn, as well as full houses for the Six Nations showdowns with France and England, boosted the coffers.

Browne added that the 45,000 turnout for the November clash with Canada was a record for a second-tier match and talked up the hugely positive knock-on effects of fans rowing in behind their team.

"Match-day attendance figures this past season were very encouraging," he says in the IRFU's 2016/17 Annual Report. 

"New Zealand and Australia in the Guinness Series and our two RBS 6 Nations fixtures against France and England were all sellouts with the latter delivering record-breaking numbers for official corporate hospitality. 

"The match against Canada last November saw over 45,000 tickets sold for a second-tier match which also represented another record for the Union. 

"The Ireland team is the main generator of income for the Union between ticket sales, broadcasting revenue, hospitality and prize money. As there are only five or six home internationals a year it is important that we maximise the revenue from each fixture. 

"Ticket sales are vital and that revenue helps to fund investment in the underage and domestic game as well as the professional game." 

Last year Browne called on the provinces to increase their gate revenues and following an upturn in competitiveness in both European and domestic competitions, they've have seen growth in their ticket revenue.

Although strides have been made, Browne wants more progress.

"In order to remain competitive with our neighbours in the UK and France, the provinces must maximise their ticketing revenue and make their games as attractive to supporters as possible," he adds.

"The provinces are making progress on the field in terms of offering competitive well-coached sides playing attractive rugby and fan support over the past season has been strong but there is room for growth."