Ireland national rugby union team

Ireland national rugby union team
Ireland rugby.png
Union Irish Rugby Football Union
Emblem(s) the Shamrock
Ground(s) Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Coach(es) Declan Kidney
Captain(s) Brian O'Driscoll
Most caps Brian O'Driscoll (117)
Top scorer Ronan O'Gara (1,075)
Most tries Brian O'Driscoll (45)
Team kit
Change kit
First international
 England 7 – 0 Ireland 
(15 February 1875)
Largest win
 United States 3 – 83 Ireland 
(10 June 2000)
Largest defeat
 New Zealand 63 – 15 Ireland 
(15 November 1997)
World Cup
Appearances 7/7 (First in 1987)
Best result Quarter Finals, 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011.

The Ireland national rugby union team represents the island of Ireland (both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) in rugby union. The team competes annually in the Six Nations Championship (which they have won eleven times outright and shared eight times) and every four years in the Rugby World Cup, where they reached the quarter-final stage in all but two competitions (1999 and 2007). Ireland is also one of the four unions that make up the British and Irish Lions – players eligible to play for Ireland are also eligible for the Lions. Eight former Ireland players have earned induction into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, with five of them also having earned induction into the IRB Hall of Fame.

Outside centre Brian O'Driscoll, the current captain and Ireland's current all-time leader in both tries and appearances, is considered one of the best rugby players in the world and led Ireland to only their second Grand Slam in March 2009. He was also captain of the Lions on their 2005 tour of New Zealand, although his on-field captaincy was cut short by a controversial injury in the Lions' first Test. O'Driscoll was succeeded as Lions captain for their 2009 tour of South Africa by his current teammate, lock Paul O'Connell. Keith Wood, O'Driscoll's predecessor as Ireland captain before retiring in 2003, was the inaugural IRB International Player of the Year in 2001.

Ireland's highest ever position in the IRB World Rankings is third, which they reached in 2003 and 2006.



Early years

Caid is an ancient sport played in Ireland with strong similarities to rugby; it was played within a defined space and between a predetermined number of players. The Cork-born Reece Lockhart founded a club at Joe's chipper in 1854, in Cork. By 1867, Trinity second XV were playing matches against St. Columba’s College and Hume High Street, two Leinster schools and, importantly for the game in the north of the country, Royal School, Dungannon. Following the adoption of a set of official rules in 1868, rugby football began to spread quickly throughout Ireland.

First Ireland rugby team: played England at the Oval on 19 February 1875 and lost by 2 goals and a try to nil

In 1874, the Irish Football Union (reconstituted as the Irish Rugby Football Union after unification with the North of Ireland Union) was formed. Ireland lost their first test match against England 7–0 at the Oval on 15 February 1875. Both teams fielded 20 players in this match[1] as was customary in the early years of rugby union; it was not until 1877 that the number of players was reduced from 20 to 15. Ireland's first home game was also against England in the same year held at the Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines as Lansdowne Road was deemed unsuitable. The first match at Lansdowne Road was held on 11 March 1878 with England beating Ireland by 2 goals and 1 try to nil.

It was not until 1881 that they first won a test, against Scotland at Ormeau in Belfast. Ireland turned up two men short for their game in Cardiff in 1884 and had to borrow two Welsh players. The first victory Ireland had at Lansdowne Road took place on 5 February 1887. It was also their first win over England, by two goals to nil. On the third of March 1888, Ireland recorded their first win over Wales with a goal, a try and a drop goal to nil.

In 1894 for the first time, Ireland followed the Welsh model of using seven backs instead of six. After victory over England at Blackheath, Ireland won back-to-back matches for the first time when recording their first win over Scotland on 24 February 1894. Ireland went on to beat Wales in Belfast and win the Triple Crown for the first time.

In the 1890s Rugby was primarily a game for the Protestant middle class, the only Catholic in Edmund Forrest’s 1894 team was Tom Crean. Of the eighteen players used in the three games, thirteen were from three Dublin clubs –Wanderers, Dublin University and Bective Rangers – and the remaining five were from Ulster. They went on to win the Home international championship twice more before the old century was out (1896 and 1899), so that by 1900 all four of the Home Unions had tasted success at a game that was growing in popularity with players and spectators.

Twentieth century

1920 illustration of the Ireland versus Wales rugby match

Such was the level of interest in the visit of the first All Blacks team to Dublin in November 1905 that the IRFU made the match the first all-ticket rugby international in history. Ireland played only seven forwards, copying the then New Zealand method of playing a "rover". The game ended New Zealand 15 Ireland 0.

On 20 March 1909, Ireland played France for the first time, beating them 19–8. This was Ireland's biggest victory in international rugby at that time, their highest points tally and a record five tries. 30 November 1912 was the first time the Springboks met Ireland at Lansdowne Road, the 1906 tour game having been played at Ravenhill. Ireland with seven new caps were overwhelmed by a record margin of 38–0, still a record loss to South Africa who scored 10 tries. In 1926, Ireland went into their final Five Nations match unbeaten and with the Grand Slam at stake lost to Wales in Swansea. Ireland again came close to a grand slam in 1927 when their sole loss was an 8–6 defeat by England.

Post war

Ireland's finest hour arguably came in 1948 when, inspired by tactician and fly-half Jack Kyle, they beat France in Paris, England at Twickenham and a 6–0 win over Scotland at Lansdowne Road. They clinched their first Grand Slam in the Five Nations with a win against Wales at Ravenhill, Belfast. Ireland were champions and Triple Crown winners again in 1949.

The Irish used only 19 players in clinching the 1949 Championship and Triple Crown, only the fourth time that the Triple Crown had been retained by a home nation.

In 1951, Ireland were once more crowned outright Five Nations champions and were unbeaten going into their final game. They failed to win the Grand Slam or Triple Crown following a 3–3 draw with Wales in Cardiff.

The year of 1952 saw only Ireland's second overseas tour, the first for over half a century – as they headed to Argentina for a nine-match trip which included two Test matches. Ireland won six, drew two and lost one of the matches, their Test record being won one, drawn one.

On 27 February 1954, Ireland were due to play Scotland at Ravenhill in Belfast. The new Irish captain, Jim McCarthy, told IRFU president Sarsfield Hogan that the eleven Republic-based players would not stand for "God Save the Queen" alongside the Scottish team. It was agreed that an abbreviated anthem, known in Ulster as "the Salute", would be played that afternoon and that the Irish team would never play again at Ravenhill. Ireland went on to beat Scotland 6–0 but did not play in Northern Ireland again until 2007.[2]

On 18 January 1958 Ireland beat Australia 9–6 in Dublin, this was the first time a major touring team had been defeated.

Sixties and Seventies

Ireland managed just three victories in the Five Nations Championship; against England in 1961, Wales in 1963 and England again in 1964. There were also draws against England and Wales at Lansdowne Road to the end of 1964.

1965 saw an improvement as Ireland drew with France before beating England and Scotland, only for their Triple Crown hopes disappear against Wales in Cardiff. On 10 April 1965 Ireland recorded their first ever win over South Africa. The match, held at Lansdowne Road, was heading for a draw with the score at six points each, when Tom Kiernan won the match for Ireland with a late penalty. Ireland beat Australia again in Dublin in 1967 and became the first of the home nations to win in the Southern Hemisphere when they beat Australia in Sydney in May 1967.

On 26 October 1968, Ireland made it four successive wins over the Wallabies with a 16–3 win at Lansdowne Road.

In 1969, Ireland claimed a 17–9 victory over France at Lansdowne Road in the Five Nations, a first victory over Les Bleus in 11 years. They were again unbeaten going into their final game in Cardiff but Wales denied them a Grand Slam for the third time. In the autumn of 1969, the Irish Rugby Football Union decided to appoint a coach for the national team for the first time, the role went to Ronnie Dawson.

The 1972 Five Nations Championship was not completed when Scotland and then Wales refused to play in Ireland following threatening letters to players, purportedly from the IRA. The championship remained unresolved with Wales and Ireland unbeaten. In 1973, despite similar threats, England fulfilled their fixture and were given a standing ovation that lasted for five minutes. Ireland won 18–9 and at the after-match dinner the England captain, John Pullin famously remarked "We might not be very good but at least we turn up". Ireland came close to a first win over the All Blacks on 20 January 1973 but with the score at 10–10 an Irish conversion attempt was pushed wide by a gust of wind. In the final match of the 1974 season, Ireland won their first Five Nations Championship since 1951.

Roly Meates was national coach from 1975 to 1977 and Noel Murphy from 1977 to 1980. Willie John McBride was coach until 1984.

Eighties and Nineties

In 1982 Ireland came close to winning a Grand Slam but were beaten by France in Paris. They beat Scotland, Wales and England to win the championship and their first Triple Crown in 33 years.

Three years after their last Triple Crown win, Ireland, coached by Mick Doyle, came out in 1985 and won the Championship and the Triple Crown again. They beat Scotland and Wales. The French again prevented Ireland from claiming a Grand Slam after a 15–15 draw in Dublin. Ireland played England at Lansdowne Road and won the championship with a last minute drop goal from Michael Kiernan. The match ended 13–10 to Ireland. It was Ireland's last silverware until 2004.

Ireland were whitewashed in the 1986 Five Nations Championship but on 1 November 1986, Ireland made history when they scored 10 tries against Romania in a 60–0 win. It was the biggest win in international rugby at the time, equalling the French record set in 1967.

At the inaugural World Cup in 1987, two straightforward victories over Tonga and Canada were enough to see Ireland through to the quarter-finals, when they travelled to Sydney to face the joint hosts Australia, only to be beaten 33–15.

In the Five Nations, England and France were dominant throughout the decade, resulting in the others scrapping around for the odd Championship title. Ireland didn't manage to win the trophy once in the whole decade and worse never finished outside the bottom two.

The second Rugby World Cup took place in Britain, Ireland and France in 1991. Ireland found themselves in the same pool as Scotland. After two easy wins over Japan and Zimbabwe, Scotland sneaked a 24–15 win at Murrayfield. Ireland played the Wallabies at Lansdowne Road in the quarter final and appeared to be on the verge of a shock victory over Australia, when Michael Lynagh scored the winning try to clinch a 19–18 win for Australia.

At the 1994 Five Nations Championship, Ireland beat Will Carling's all-conquering England at Twickenham.

At the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, Ireland were in a group containing the All Blacks and Wales. In a close game in Johannesburg, Ireland sneaked through 24–23 against Wales to make their third consecutive quarter-final appearance. Unfortunately France proved too strong, with Ireland going down 36–12.

Professional Era

Ireland playing at Croke Park.

The start of the professional era was disappointing for Ireland who finished bottom in the Five Nations Championship three years in succession (1996, 1997 and 1998). Englishman Brian Ashton was head coach between 1997 and 1998, but after a series of disappointing results resigned barely 12 months into the six year contract he had been awarded by the IRFU. Warren Gatland took over as coach in 1998, but was unable to produce immediate success and 1999 was the first time Ireland failed to reach the last eight at a Rugby World Cup. From this nadir, however, Irish rugby improved rapidly. With the advent of professionalism, the Irish Rugby Football Union decided to convert the four representative provincial sides into de facto club sides, with the financial capacity to retain top talent in Ireland, yet retaining strong links with amateur clubs and schools to enable young talent to be brought up through the ranks. The close geographical proximity of most of the Irish international squad helped cement relationships between the players in a way that would not have been possible had they left for English, French and Southern Hemisphere clubs. The later formation of the Celtic League (Now called the RaboDirect Pro12 for sponsorship reasons) cemented this strategy by ensuring that provincial sides had a regular schedule of competitive rugby.

The 1999 World Cup was staged in Wales though Ireland played all their pool games in Dublin. A defeat to the Wallabies meant Ireland having to go down the play-off route. Playing away from Lansdowne Road for the first time in the competition, Ireland were beaten 28–24 by Argentina in Lens.

The advent of the new Six Nations format coincided with this Irish resurgence, and they became the strongest of the Celtic nations. In 2001 the rugby union season was disrupted due to the foot and mouth crisis in Britain. Ireland were good enough to beat France but were unable to play Scotland until the Autumn and were caught cold losing 32–10. They were still good enough to beat England, spoiling their hopes of a Grand Slam, and finishing second on points difference. Eddie O'Sullivan took over as coach from Warren Gatland in November 2001 following the New Zealander's sacking.

The 2003 Six Nations Championship came down to the wire with Ireland and England playing a Grand Slam decider at Lansdowne Road. England, however, won 42–6. That defeat ended an unbeaten run that stretched back 10 Tests to their Rugby World Cup qualifiers warm up against Romania in September 2002 and included defeats of Pool A rivals Australia and Argentina at Lansdowne Road. In 2004 they lost their opening game against France but became the first team to beat England following their World Cup win. They finished second in the table behind France and won the Triple Crown.

In 2005 Ireland were considered slight favourites entering the Six Nations Championships, and won their first three matches, including a 19–13 defeat of England in Dublin. However, Ireland's dreams of their first Grand Slam since 1948 were ended with a 26–19 home loss to France. In the final round, Wales defeated Ireland 32–20 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to win the Grand Slam. Ireland finished in 3rd place. In 2006, Ireland showed the capacity to play top class rugby, but only inconsistently – a rout of Wales was balanced by uncertain victories against England, Scotland and Italy and a comprehensive defeat by winners France. Ireland finished second and won the Triple Crown for the second time in three years, incidentally the first ever time a trophy had been awarded for the feat.

Ireland scrum against Scotland during the 2007 Six Nations Championship.

They then embarked on their annual tour to the southern hemisphere. There they ran New Zealand close twice before a tired Ireland were thumped by the Wallabies in Perth. They returned to their clubs before they gathered once more for the last Autumn Internationals at Lansdowne Road. The South Africans came with an experimental side with an eye on the 2007 World Cup, which was soundly beaten by the Irish 32–15. Next to Lansdowne were Australia with a much more formidable squad. The weather ruined what many had tipped to be the battle of the backlines, although Geordan Murphy finished off a world class move in their 21–6 victory. That win propelled Ireland to a best ever height of 3rd in the IRB World Rankings. In the final international match at Lansdowne, Ireland thumped the Pacific Islanders 61–17, with Paddy Wallace putting in a man of the match performance with 26 points. The win completed a hat-trick of victories.

In March 2007 the IRFU created the "High Performance Select Group" of up and coming Irish players who have been earmarked for future Irish teams. This group includes Luke Fitzgerald, Barry Murphy, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, Daniel Riordan, Stephen Ferris, Roger Wilson,and Jamie Heaslip, some of whom have already been capped. The aim of the group is to provide these young players with the support and infrastructure available to the senior squad and to ease their future transition into the Irish team.[3]

With the announcement of the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road, a new venue was required to stage Ireland's home internationals. While Ireland are planning to play one of their warm up matches for the 2007 World Cup at Ravenhill, the only stadium in Ireland capable of holding major rugby internationals was Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association. To accommodate this, the GAA temporarily relaxed its rule governing the playing of so-called "foreign games" on its property. Initially, two Six Nations games were played at Croke Park during 2007; the first was a 17–20 loss to France, and the second a 43 to 13 win over England.

Ireland began their 2008 Six Nations Campaign with a narrow win over Italy.[4] France then edged Ireland out in Paris,[5] before they went on to beat Scotland in Dublin,[6] Ireland then lost to eventual Grand Slammers Wales and England.

In March 2008, Eddie O'Sullivan resigned as Ireland coach after the disappointing Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.[7]

Declan Kidney was subsequently appointed as manager but did not take up this role formally until after Ireland's tour of New Zealand and Australia (losing to the All Blacks 21–11 and Australia 18–12). His first official game in charge was against Canada at Thomond Park which Ireland won 55–0.[8]

Ireland won the 2009 Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam by beating Wales at the Millennium Stadium 15–17 on 21 March 2009, the first time they had won the championship since 1985, and the first time they had won the Grand Slam since 1948. Ireland also became only the second team (after Wales in 2005) to win a Six Nations Grand Slam after playing more away games than at home.[9][10] The Ireland team arrived home on 22 March 2009 at Dublin airport to a heroes welcome. Afterwards around 18,000 fans turned out at the Mansion House to greet the team after clinching the first Grand Slam for Ireland in 61 years.[11] After Autumn Series victories against Fiji and South Africa, and a draw against Australia, Ireland ended 2009 unbeaten.

Ireland began the 2010 Six Nations with a home game against Italy, winning 29–11. Their second game was away to France in a match which many saw as the decider for this years competition. France ran out comfortable winners, the final score being 33–10. After a one week break Ireland were away to England. In a close game Ireland eventually emerged victorious, a Tommy Bowe try and Ronan O'Gara conversion winning the match 16–20. After another one week break Ireland were back at Croke Park against Wales. Ireland were winners, beating Wales 27–12 after a Man-of-the-Match performance from Tomas O'Leary.[12] Ireland's final game of the Six Nations, and the last ever game at Croke Park, was against Scotland. Ireland went into the match with a 5th Triple Crown in sight but were undone by a 79th minute Dan Parks penalty, which gave the Scots a 20–23 victory.[13]

Ireland began their 2010 Summer Tests with a non-cap friendly against the Barbarians, which they lost 23–29 despite a characteristic fight-back in the second half. Their next game saw them take on New Zealand. An injury hit side fielded a number of inexperienced or uncapped players, and Ireland were duly thrashed 66–28, their heaviest ever defeat, though a spirited come back in the second half gained them a lot of deserved credit, with tries from O'Driscoll, Bowe and D'Arcy after Tuohy's first half try. Jamie Heaslip was also sent off in the 15th minute so Ireland were at a numerical disadvantage. Ireland's next game was against New Zealand Maori. The side was captained by Geordan Murphy and fielded many inexperienced players. The game was level at 18–18 at half-time thanks to Jonathan Sexton's boot, but the Maori eventually won 31–28. Ireland's next game, and last of the Summer Tests, was against Australia which they lost 22–15.

Ireland began their 2010 Autumn Tests with a 21–23 defeat to South Africa, the first international at the new Aviva Stadium. Ronan O'Gara won his 100th cap for Ireland during the game. Ireland's next game was against Samoa, which they won 20–10. Ireland's third game of the 2010 Autumn Tests was against New Zealand, which the All-Blacks won 18–38. Ireland's final game of the 2010 Autumn Tests was against Argentina, which Ireland won 29–9.

The 2011 Six Nations Championship began for Ireland against Italy in Rome, where a late Ronan O'Gara drop goal secured an 11–13 win for Ireland. Ireland lost 22–25 to France in their second match, the first Six Nations match to be played at the Aviva Stadium. Ireland next played Scotland at Murrayfield, defeating the Scots 18–21. Wales defeated Ireland 19–13 at the Millenium Stadium. During the game, Ronan O'Gara became the first Irishman, and only the fifth player, to cross the 1,000-point barrier in international rugby, and Brian O'Driscoll equalled the Four/Five/Six Nations all-time record for tries scored. Ireland's final game was against England, who were chasing their first Grand Slam in eight years. Ireland won 24–8 to ruin England's hopes, Brian O'Driscoll scored his 25th Championship try to set a new record, and Ronan O'Gara made his 56th Championship appearance to equal the record of countryman Mike Gibson.

Flags and anthems

Flag of the IRFU

The Irish rugby union team is one of a few national sporting teams on the island that draws widespread support in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and from both nationalist and unionist communities. As Ireland represents players from different sovereign territories, there has been controversy over the flags and anthems. When Irish internationals were played alternately in Belfast and Dublin, the British national anthem was played for matches in Belfast and the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland "Amhrán na bhFiann" was played for matches in Dublin. No anthem was played at away games.

Since April 1995, a specially composed anthem, "Ireland's Call" has been used by the Irish team in away games.[14] This has prompted some players and supporters from the Republic to complain that "Amhrán na bhFiann" should be played.[15] At games played in Dublin "Ireland's Call" is always used alongside "Amhrán na bhFiann".[16] This use of "Amhrán na bhFiann" has caused similar complaints from players and supporters from Northern Ireland.[citation needed] With Ireland's friendly game against Italy in the run up to the 2007 Rugby World Cup scheduled to be held in Belfast, there were calls for "God Save the Queen" to be used alongside "Ireland's Call" but this was turned down by the IRFU[17] with the explanation given that it was not a 'home' match because the team would be playing "outside Ireland".[18]

Similarly, the Irish tricolour, the official flag of the Republic of Ireland, is flown only when playing in the Republic. A flag with symbols representing the four provinces of Ireland is flown alongside the Irish tricolour in Dublin, and is used exclusively when playing elsewhere.[citation needed] At some matches, the standard of the island's rugby union governing body, the Irish Rugby Football Union, is displayed on the field during pre-match ceremonies.[citation needed]

At the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Ireland team have entered the field of play at the beginning of their matches with the Irish tricolour and the Flag of Ulster[19], to which the six Irish counties in Northern Ireland belong.

Home grounds

Lansdowne Road, the home of Irish rugby, seen here during a Munster-Leinster game.

The traditional home of Irish rugby is Lansdowne Road in Dublin, where most of Ireland's home matches were held. The stadium was rebuilt between 2007 and 2010. Naming rights were sold to an insurance company, and the venue is now referred to as the Aviva Stadium. The original stadium, owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union, was built in 1872, and so the venue continues to hold the distinction as the oldest still in use for international rugby. In 1878 the ground hosted its first rugby Test, with Ireland playing host to the English (the first representative rugby match had taken place prior to the Test, a game between Ulster and Leinster). Lansdowne Road had a capacity of just over 49,000 before it was demolished in summer 2007. The redeveloped stadium seats 51,700 and was opened in May 2010. The final Irish Test prior to work commencing on the remodelled stadium was against the Pacific Islanders in late 2006. With Lansdowne Road unavailable for use, Ireland was without a suitable home ground for the subsequent Six Nations. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) owned Croke Park (an 82,500 capacity stadium) was made available for Ireland's two home games against France and England in 2007. It was the first time ever that rugby was played at the venue. Croke Park remained in use for Ireland's Six Nations matches and other major Tests until the completion of the redevelopment at Lansdowne Road.

Aviva Stadium, on Lansdowne Road.

The first Ireland match at the rebuilt stadium was against reigning World Cup champions South Africa on 6 November 2010.South Africa won the match 23–22. Because of the historic significance of this match, South Africa announced that they would wear their change strip to allow Ireland to wear their home green; normally, the home team change their colours in case of a clash.[20]

Although Ireland has never totally hosted the Rugby World Cup, select games from both the 1991 and 1999 World Cups were played throughout venues in Ireland. Pool B in 1991 was mainly played in Ireland and Scotland, with two games at Lansdowne Road (involving Ireland) and one (Zimbabwe v Japan) played at Ravenhill, Belfast. A quarter-final and a semi-final were also hosted by Dublin. A similar system was used in 1999, though in addition to Lansdowne and Ravenhill, Thomond Park was also a venue. Lansdowne Road was also the host of a quarter-final in 1999. Ireland were set to host matches at Lansdowne Road for the 2007 World Cup, but due to scheduling conflicts with the reconstruction of the stadium, they decided they were not in a position to host any.[21]


Six Nations

Ireland's Grand slam trophy haul in 2009

The Six Nations Championship, held every year in February and March is Ireland's only annual tournament. It is contested against England, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Ireland was a member of the inaugural Home Nations in 1883 – with France and Italy joining later to form the Five and Six Nations respectively. Ireland won their first championship in 1894, winning the Triple Crown also. Ireland's first Grand Slam occurred in the 1948 season and their second in the 2009 season. In total Ireland have been champions on eleven occasions.






Tournaments 111 81 111 12 111 111
Outright Wins (Shared Wins)
Home Nations 5 (4) - 4 (3) - 9 (2) 7 (3)
Five Nations 17 (6) 12 (8) 6 (5) - 5 (6) 15 (8)
Six Nations 4 5 1 0 0 2
Overall 26 (10) 17 (8) 11 (8) 0 (0) 14 (8) 24 (11)
Grand Slams 12 9 2 0 3 10
Triple Crowns 23 N/A 10 N/A 10 19

World Cup

Ireland and Australia contesting a line-out in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Ireland have competed at every Rugby World Cup tournament. The furthest they have progressed is the quarter-finals, which they have made five times out of seven. They have finished top of their pool once, in 2011, after beating pool favourite Australia.

After a loss to Wales in the first tournament, held in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, Ireland finished second in their pool but were then knocked out by Australia in their quarter final in Sydney. In 1991 Ireland again lost only one match in pool play, this time to Scotland. They again met the Australians in the quarter-finals, who defeated them by one point. Runner-up in their pool in 1995 to the All Blacks, Ireland were defeated by France in their quarter-final in Durban.

Ireland finished second in their pool in 1999, behind Australia and went into the quarter-final play-offs (a system exclusive to the 1999 tournament). There they lost to Argentina, and thus, not being a quarter-finalists, they were not given automatic entry into 2003. They defeated Russia and Georgia to go through as Europe 1. They finished second to Australia in their pool, and were knocked out by France in the quarter finals.

They started in the so-called "Group of death" with hosts France, Argentina, Namibia and Georgia in the 2007 World Cup. They played Namibia (the lowest ranked team in the World Cup) in their opening game on 9 September which resulted in a 32–17 win.[22] Their progress was then put into doubt when they beat Georgia 14–10, not obtaining a bonus point.[23] France's victory over Namibia 87–10 put Ireland's progression from the group in doubt, and this was compounded when Ireland lost to the French 25–3.[24] Entering their last group match against Argentina, needing four tries to secure a bonus point without allowing Argentina anything, Ireland were defeated by 30 points to 15 and crashed out at the pool stage for the first time.[25]

Ireland were in Pool C for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, with Australia, Russia, USA and Italy. Their first pool game was against the USA on 11 September, which ended in a 22–10 victory for Ireland.[26] Ireland's second pool game was against the reigning Tri Nations champions Australia. Despite being underdogs, Ireland recorded their first victory over Australia at a World Cup with a superb 15–6 win.[27] Ireland comfortably beat Russia 62–12 in their third Pool C game.[28] Ireland secured first place in Pool C with a 36–6 win over Italy. This victory ensured that Ireland went through to the World Cup quarter finals as group winners for the first time in their World Cup history.[29] Ireland lost their quarter final to Wales 10–22.[30]


Top 20 Rankings as of 21 November 2011[31]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 steady  New Zealand 91.43
2 steady  Australia 87.42
3 steady  France 84.70
4 steady  South Africa 84.34
5 steady  England 81.58
6 steady  Ireland 80.65
7 steady  Argentina 80.28
8 steady  Wales 80.18
9 steady  Tonga 76.63
10 steady  Scotland 76.20
11 steady  Samoa 75.81
12 steady  Italy 73.99
13 steady  Canada 72.92
14 steady  Georgia 71.09
15 steady  Japan 70.45
16 steady  Fiji 68.78
17 steady  United States 65.63
18 steady  Romania 63.98
19 steady  Namibia 61.24
20 steady  Portugal 60.67
*Change from the previous week
Ireland's Historical Rankings
Ireland IRB World Rankings.png
Source: IRB - Graph updated to 21/11/2011[31]

Their Test record against all nations: As of 09 October 2011[32]

Against Played Won Lost Drawn Win %
 Argentina 17 9 7 1 52.94
 Australia 27 8 18 1 29.63
 Canada 5 4 0 1 80
 England 125 46 71 8 36.8
 Fiji 4 4 0 0 100
 France 89 29 55 5 32.58
 Georgia 3 3 0 0 100
 Italy 20 17 3 0 85
 Japan 5 5 0 0 100
 Namibia 4 2 2 0 50
 New Zealand 24 0 23 1 0
 Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100
 Romania 8 8 0 0 100
 Russia 2 2 0 0 100
 Samoa 5 4 1 0 80
 Scotland 127 57 65 5 44.88
 South Africa 20 4 15 1 20
 Tonga 2 2 0 0 100
 United States 7 7 0 0 100
 Wales 116 46 64 6 39.66
 Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 100
Total 612 259 325 28 42.32

Current squad

Ireland's 30-man squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.[33]

Head Coach: Declan Kidney
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by the International Rugby Board.

Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province
Rory Best Hooker 15 August 1982 (1982-08-15) (age 29) 54 Ireland Ulster
Sean Cronin Hooker 6 May 1986 (1986-05-06) (age 25) 15 Ireland Leinster
Damien Varley Hooker 29 October 1983 (1983-10-29) (age 28) 2 Ireland Munster
Tony Buckley Prop 8 August 1980 (1980-08-08) (age 31) 25 England Sale Sharks
Tom Court Prop 6 November 1980 (1980-11-06) (age 31) 24 Ireland Ulster
Cian Healy Prop 7 October 1987 (1987-10-07) (age 24) 25 Ireland Leinster
Mike Ross Prop 21 December 1979 (1979-12-21) (age 31) 15 Ireland Leinster
Leo Cullen Lock 9 January 1978 (1978-01-09) (age 33) 32 Ireland Leinster
Donncha O'Callaghan Lock 24 March 1979 (1979-03-24) (age 32) 80 Ireland Munster
Paul O'Connell (vc) Lock 20 October 1979 (1979-10-20) (age 32) 82 Ireland Munster
Donnacha Ryan Lock 11 December 1983 (1983-12-11) (age 27) 13 Ireland Munster
Stephen Ferris Flanker 2 August 1985 (1985-08-02) (age 26) 30 Ireland Ulster
Shane Jennings Flanker 8 July 1981 (1981-07-08) (age 30) 12 Ireland Leinster
Sean O'Brien Flanker 14 February 1987 (1987-02-14) (age 24) 15 Ireland Leinster
Jamie Heaslip Number 8 15 December 1983 (1983-12-15) (age 27) 43 Ireland Leinster
Denis Leamy Number 8 27 November 1981 (1981-11-27) (age 29) 57 Ireland Munster
Isaac Boss Scrum-half 9 April 1980 (1980-04-09) (age 31) 15 Ireland Leinster
Conor Murray Scrum-half 20 April 1989 (1989-04-20) (age 22) 6 Ireland Munster
Eoin Reddan Scrum-half 20 November 1980 (1980-11-20) (age 31) 37 Ireland Leinster
Ronan O'Gara Fly-half 7 March 1977 (1977-03-07) (age 34) 116 Ireland Munster
Jonathan Sexton Fly-half 11 July 1985 (1985-07-11) (age 26) 24 Ireland Leinster
Gordon D'Arcy Centre 10 February 1980 (1980-02-10) (age 31) 63 Ireland Leinster
Fergus McFadden Centre 17 June 1986 (1986-06-17) (age 25) 6 Ireland Leinster
Brian O'Driscoll (c) Centre 21 January 1979 (1979-01-21) (age 32) 117 Ireland Leinster
Paddy Wallace Centre 27 August 1979 (1979-08-27) (age 32) 29 Ireland Ulster
Tommy Bowe Wing 22 February 1984 (1984-02-22) (age 27) 44 Wales Ospreys
Keith Earls Wing 2 October 1987 (1987-10-02) (age 24) 26 Ireland Munster
Andrew Trimble Wing 20 October 1984 (1984-10-20) (age 27) 41 Ireland Ulster
Rob Kearney Fullback 26 March 1986 (1986-03-26) (age 25) 33 Ireland Leinster
Geordan Murphy Fullback 19 April 1978 (1978-04-19) (age 33) 72 England Leicester Tigers

Notable players

Hall of Fame

Eight former Ireland players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. Five of these have also had the added honour of induction into the IRB Hall of Fame—Kyle in 2008;[37] McBride, Millar and O'Reilly in 2009;[38] and Gibson in 2011.[39]

British and Irish Lions

The following Ireland players have represented the British and Irish Lions.[40]

See also List of Ireland national rugby union footballers

Individual records

  • Of the 34 players known to have earned 90 or more Test caps, four are current members of the Ireland team. Ireland's all-time caps leader is Brian O'Driscoll with 117. Trailing him are Ronan O'Gara with 116 and John Hayes with 105. One other member of this club has been recently active—Peter Stringer, with 98 caps. Malcolm O'Kelly, with 92 caps, made his last international appearance in the 2009 Six Nations and retired from rugby in May 2010. This does not include caps for the Lions. When those are included, O'Driscoll's combined total of 123 international caps places him first among players currently active at Test level, and second in all-time. Ronan O'Gara (118) and John Hayes (107) are fourth and twelfth respectively on the all-time caps list, and second and seventh respectively for players still active in international rugby union.[42]
  • As of 20 March 2011, O'Gara is the highest points scorer in the Six Nations with 551 points. Jonny Wilkinson is second with 546, and Stephen Jones is third with 467.
  • O'Driscoll is also second behind John Smit on the all-time list for Test matches as captain. Smit has captained South Africa 83 times, whilst[45] O'Driscoll has captained Ireland 80 times and the Lions once.[46]
  • Keith Wood currently holds the world rugby union record for most International Test tries scored by a hooker, which is 15.
  • Thomas Gisborne Gordon, who played for Ireland between 1877–78, is the only one handed player to have competed in international rugby of either code.[47]


The IRFU first decided to appoint a coach in 1968

See also



  1. ^ "Irish International Teams: Results, Scorers, Dates and Venues – 1874 to June 1999". Retrieved 31 October 2008. 
  2. ^ Frank Keating (27 February 2007). "How Ravenhill rebels made an issue out of an anthem". The Guardian (UK).,,2022097,00.html. Retrieved 31 October 2008. 
  3. ^ "Irish Rugby : In Pics: IRFU PwC High Performance Select Group". IRFU. Retrieved 31 October 2008. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Ireland 16–11 Italy". BBC Sport. 2 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "France 26–21 Ireland". BBC Sport. 8 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  6. ^ "Ireland 34 Scotland 13". BBC Sport. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  7. ^ "O'Sullivan quits as Ireland coach". BBC Sport. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  8. ^ "Ireland 55–0 Canada". BBC Sport. 8 November 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  9. ^ "2009 Six Nations". BBC Sport. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  10. ^ "Wales 15–17 Ireland". RTE Sport. 21 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  11. ^ "Fans hail Grand Slam heroes". RTE Sport. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  12. ^ "Ireland 27–12 Wales". BBC Sport. 13 March 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  13. ^ "Ireland 20–23 Scotland". BBC Sport. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "Ireland's Call". BBC News. 29 October 2002. Retrieved 8 February 2007. 
  15. ^ Barry, Kevin (10 March 2005). "‘Ireland’s Call’ is the right anthem". University College Cork. Retrieved 8 February 2007. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Ireland Anthem". 18 May 2001.,18259,5067_,00.html. Retrieved 8 February 2007. 
  17. ^ "Rugby bosses reject unionists' anthem argument". 21 August 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2007. 
  18. ^ "You're off key over claim on anthem, says rugby body". News Letter. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "SA to play in Aviva rugby opener". BBC Sport. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  21. ^ "Scotland looks to give up World cup matches at Murrayfield". 2 December 2005. Retrieved 21 April 2006. 
  22. ^ "Ireland 32–17 Namibia". BBC Sport. 9 September 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "Ireland 14–10 Georgia". BBC Sport. 15 September 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  24. ^ "France 25–3 Ireland". BBC Sport. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Argentina 30–15 Ireland". BBC Sport. 30 September 2007. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  26. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Ireland 22–10 USA". BBC Sport. 11 September 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  27. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Australia 6-15 Ireland". BBC Sport. 17 September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Ireland 62-12 Russia". BBC Sport. 25 September 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011. 
  29. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Ireland 36-6 Italy". BBC Sport. 02 October 2011. Retrieved 02 October 2011. 
  30. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Wales 22-10 Ireland". BBC Sport. 08 October 2011. Retrieved 08 October 2011. 
  31. ^ a b "World Rankings". International Rugby Board. Retrieved 21 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "Ireland > Head to Head Table". Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  33. ^ "Fitzgerald and O'leary miss out" (Press release). ESPN Scrum. 22 August 2011. 
  34. ^ "Jennings Called Up As Replacement For Wallace". 27 August 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  35. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery out of World Cup". BBC Sport. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  36. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2011: Sherry comes in as cover for Best". BBC Sport. 04 October 2011. Retrieved 04 October 2011. 
  37. ^ "IRB Hall of Fame Welcomes Five Inductees". International Rugby Board. 23 November 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2008. 
  38. ^ "IRB Hall of Fame: The 2009 Induction" (PDF) (Press release). International Rugby Board. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009. 
  39. ^ "Mike Gibson inducted into IRB Hall of Fame" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  40. ^ The Ireland Rugby Miscellany (2007): Ciaran Cronin
  41. ^ 1989 French Republic anniversary match
  42. ^ "Player analysis – George Smith".;template=results;type=player;view=match. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  43. ^ "ESPNScrum Stasguru Overall Points Record". 02 October 2011.;filter=advanced;orderby=points;template=results;type=player. Retrieved 02 October 2011. 
  44. ^ "Ireland Statistics: All Time Try Scorers". Irish Rugby Football Union. Retrieved 13 February 2010. [dead link]
  45. ^ "Statsguru / Test matches / Player records (filter: as captain)".;class=1;filter=advanced;orderby=matches;template=results;type=player. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  46. ^ "Statsguru / Player analysis / Brian O'Driscoll / Test matches (filter: as captain)".;class=1;template=results;type=player;view=match. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  47. ^ John O'Sullivan (3 May 2010). "Planet rugby". The Irish Times. 
  48. ^ a b c d No demands made on Ashton to go, say IRFU Irish Examiner, 18 February 1998

External links

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