Ireland national rugby union team

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Not to be confused with Ireland national rugby league team.
Ireland rugby.png
Union Irish Rugby Football Union
Emblem(s) The Shamrock
Ground(s) Aviva Stadium
Coach(es) Josef Schmidt
Captain(s) Paul O'Connell
Most caps Brian O'Driscoll (133)
Top scorer Ronan O'Gara (1,083)
Most tries Brian O'Driscoll (46)
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 60 – 0 Ireland 
(23 June 2012)
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 the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) in rugby union. The team competes annually in (and are current holders of) the Six Nations Championship (which they have won twelve 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.

Ireland's highest ever position in the World Rugby Rankings is third, which they reached in 2003, 2006, 2014 and 2015. As of 2 March 2015, Ireland are 3rd in the world rankings.

Eight former Ireland players have earned induction into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, with five of them also having earned induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame; one other former player is a member of the World Rugby Hall only. Former outside centre and captain Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's all-time leader in tries scored, was considered one of the best rugby players in the world,[citation needed] and led Ireland to only their second Grand Slam in 2009. He was also captain of the Lions on their 2005 tour of New Zealand, although his on-field captaincy was cut short by an injury in the Lions' first Test. O'Driscoll was succeeded as Lions captain for their 2009 tour of South Africa by his former teammate, lock Paul O'Connell. Keith Wood, O'Driscoll's predecessor as Ireland captain before retiring in 2003, was the inaugural World Rugby International Player of the Year in 2001.


Early years[edit]

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 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 Ireland first won a test, beating 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, Ireland followed the Welsh model of using seven backs instead of six for the first time. 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.[2] 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 1901 all four of the Home Unions had tasted success at a game that was growing in popularity with players and spectators.

Early 20th century: 1901–45[edit]

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: 1945–59[edit]

In 1948, inspired by tactician and fly-half Jack Kyle, Ireland 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.

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.[3]

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

Later 20th century: 1960–94[edit]

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.

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.

Professional era begins: 1995–2005[edit]

Ireland playing at Croke Park.

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 went through 24–23 against Wales to make their third consecutive quarter-final appearance. Unfortunately, France proved too strong, with Ireland going down 36–12.

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. The 1999 World Cup was staged in Wales though Ireland played all their pool games in Dublin. A defeat by the Wallabies in pool play 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.

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. The later formation in 2001 of the Celtic League (now called the Pro12) cemented this strategy by ensuring that provincial sides had a regular schedule of competitive rugby.

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. 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. In the last Autumn Internationals at Lansdowne Road, Ireland beast he South African experimental side 32–15. Next were Australia, with Ireland posting a 21–6 victory to propel 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.

Paul O'Connell winning the line-out against Argentina in 2007.

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 included Luke Fitzgerald, Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney, Stephen Ferris, and Jamie Heaslip. The aim of the group is to provide young players with support and infrastructure and to ease their future transition into the Irish team.[4] With the announcement of the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road, a new venue was required to stage Ireland's home internationals. 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.[5] France then edged Ireland out in Paris,[6] before they went on to beat Scotland in Dublin,[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Brian O'Driscoll lifting the 2009 Six Nations Grand slam trophy.

Ireland won the 2009 Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam by beating Wales at the Millennium Stadium 15–17 on 21 March 2009, the decisive score coming from a dropped goal by Ronan O'Gara. It was 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.[10][11] The Ireland team arrived home at Dublin airport to a heroes welcome. Afterwards around 18,000 fans turned out at the Mansion House to greet the team after clinching their Grand Slam.[12] After Autumn Series victories against Fiji and South Africa, and a draw against Australia, Ireland ended 2009 unbeaten.

2010 to present[edit]

Ireland began the 2010 Six Nations with a home game against Italy, winning 29–11. Their second game was away to France with Ireland losing 33–10. Next Ireland were away to England. Ireland emerged victorious, a Tommy Bowe try and Ronan O'Gara conversion winning the match 16–20. Next 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.[13] 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 lost to Scotland 20–23.[14]

Ireland began their 2010 Summer Tests with a non-cap friendly against the Barbarians, which they lost 23–29. Their next game saw them take on New Zealand. Ireland were thrashed 66–28, their heaviest ever defeat.[citation needed] Ireland's next game was against New Zealand Maori. The side fielded many inexperienced players. The game was level at 18–18 at half-time, but the Maori won 31–28. Ireland's last game of the Summer Tests, was against Australia which they lost 22–15.

Ireland began their 2010 Autumn Tests with a 21–23 defeat by 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 Millennium 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.

Ireland's 2012 Six Nations Championship campaign began with 21–23 defeat at the hands of Wales.[15] Ireland's second game, away to France, was called off due to a frozen pitch.[16] Ireland beat Italy 42–10 in their second fixture of the 2012 Six Nations.[17] Ireland's third game was the re-arranged fixture against France at the Stade de France, which was drawn 17–17.[18] Ireland beat Scotland 32–14 in their Round 4 game.[19] Ireland's final 2012 Six Nations game was away to England, which the hosts won 30–9, meaning Ireland finished third overall with two wins, one draw and two defeats.[20]

Ireland began their three-test 2012 summer tour of New Zealand with a 42–10 defeat.[21] Ireland narrowly lost the second test after a 79th minute Dan Carter drop-goal secured a 22–19 win for New Zealand.[22] New Zealand won the third test 60–0, securing a 3–0 series victory and inflicting upon Ireland their heaviest ever defeat.[23]

Ireland opened their 2012 November tests with a 12–16 defeat at the hands of South Africa.[24] Ireland's second game of the series was an uncapped friendly against Fiji, which the Irish XV won 53–0.[25] Ireland beat Argentina 46–24 in the third and final 2012 November test, securing a place in the IRB Rankings top 8.[26]

The 2013 Six Nations Championship began for Ireland with a trip to Wales, where Ireland won 22-30, their first win against Wales since 2010.[27] Ireland lost their second game, at home to England, 6-12, the first time they have lost at home to England in 10 years.[28] Scotland beat Ireland 12-8 in Round 3 of the tournament.[29] Ireland drew 13-13 with France in Round 4, the second consecutive draw between the sides. Ireland went into their final game of the tournament, against Italy. Italy won the game 22-15, their first win over Ireland in the Six Nations, but France ended up with the Wooden Spoon because Ireland had a better points-difference.[30]

The IRFU decided not to extend Declan Kidney's contract in the wake of the defeat, meaning Les Kiss would take over as Interim head coach for the North America Tour in June 2013.[31] Leinster's Joe Schmidt was announced as the new permanent Ireland team coach on 29 April 2013. His contract started on 1 July 2013, after Ireland's tour of North America, which was led by Les Kiss.[32]

Ireland celebrate winning the 2014 Six Nations Championship.

Ireland went to North America for their 2013 Summer Tour, beating the USA 12-15 on 8 June 2013[33] before beating Canada 14-40 on 15 June 2013.[34]

Ireland opened their 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests with a 40–9 win against Samoa.[35] Ireland lost 15–32 to Australia in the second game of the series on 16 November 2013.[36] Ireland lost 22–24 to New Zealand in their final game of 2013 on 24 November 2013, having led almost throughout the match only to be denied by a late converted try.[37]

Ireland opened their 2014 Six Nations Championship with a 28-6 win over Scotland on 2 February 2014.[38] In their second game, Ireland beat Wales 26-3.[39] Ireland lost 10-13 to England on 22 February 2014.[40] Ireland won their next match against Italy 46-7.[41] Ireland beat France 22-20 in the final round to claim the Six Nations title on points difference.[42]

Ireland retained the RBS Six Nations Championship on 21 March 2015 with a 10-40 win over Scotland. In the previous game, Wales thrashed Italy 20-61, putting the Welsh on top of the table by points difference with 53, which meant that Ireland had to win by at least 20 points to retain the Championship. Their 30 point win put them top of the standings, leaving England's only chance of snatching the title to beat France by 26 points. However, they fell six points short,despite a close last minute try oppertunity, and Ireland became Six Nations Champions for the second year running on points difference.

Playing strip[edit]

Ireland's traditional strip consists of a green jersey, white shorts, and green socks. Their emblem consists of a shamrock and rugby ball; a shamrock has been incorporated into the emblem since the side first played in 1874.

Between 1996 and the summer of 2002, Ireland's main shirt sponsor was Irish Permanent. They were replaced by Permanent TSB, who sponsored the shirt until the autumn of 2006. O2 were Ireland's main shirt sponsor from then until 2014. 3 have been the shirt sponsor since August 2014.

Before 1992, Umbro supplied kit to Ireland. Nike were the suppliers between 1992 and the summer of 2000. Canterbury of New Zealand took over after the summer of 2000 and was the supplier until June 2009. In November 2009, Puma took on the supply of Ireland's playing and training kit. In January 2014, Canterbury and the IRFU signed a deal which will see Canterbury supply Ireland's playing and training kit from November 2014 until 2020.[43]

Flags and anthems[edit]

Flag of the IRFU

The Irish rugby union team is one of many teams that draws its players from across the Island of Ireland and therefore can contain players from either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. In the past this has led to issues surrounding certain flag and anthem usage. When Irish internationals were played alternately in Belfast and Dublin, the UK 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.[citation needed] No anthem was played at away games.

Since April 1995, a specifically composed anthem named "Ireland's Call" has been used exclusively by the Irish team at away games.[44] This has prompted some players and supporter complaints that "Amhrán na bhFiann" should also be played.[45] At games played in Dublin "Ireland's Call" is always used alongside "Amhrán na bhFiann".[46] This use of "Amhrán na bhFiann" has caused similar complaints from players and supporters within a segment of the unionist community in 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[47] with the explanation given that both Ireland's Call and Amhrán na bhFiann are only played together in Dublin, and that outside of Ireland, the anthem of Ireland's Call is exclusively used.[48]

Similarly, the Flag of Ireland, is only flown when games are played in the Republic of Ireland. A flag with the arms of the four provinces of Ireland with the shamrock in the center 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 entered the field of play at the beginning of their matches with the Irish tricolour and the Flag of Ulster,[citation needed] to which the six Irish counties in Northern Ireland belong.

Home grounds[edit]

Lansdowne Road, the former home of Irish rugby, seen here during a Leinster-Munster 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.[49]

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.[50]


Six Nations[edit]

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 thirteen occasions following their title in the 2015 Six Nations Championship.






Tournaments 119 86 121 16 121 121
Outright Wins (Shared Wins)
Home Nations 5 (4) NA 4 (4) NA 9 (2) 7 (4)
Five Nations 17 (6) 12 (8) 6 (5) NA 5 (6) 15 (8)
Six Nations 4 5 3 0 0 4
Overall 26 (10) 17 (8) 13 (9) 0 (0) 14 (8) 26 (12)
Grand Slams
Home Nations 0 NA 0 NA 0 2
Five Nations 11 6 1 NA 3 6
Six Nations 1 3 1 0 0 3
Overall 12 9 2 0 3 11
Triple Crowns
Home Nations 5 NA 2 NA 7 6
Five Nations 16 NA 4 NA 3 11
Six Nations 3 NA 4 NA 0 3
Overall 24 NA 10 NA 10 20
Wooden Spoons
Home Nations 11 NA 15 NA 8 8
Five Nations 14 17 21 NA 21 12
Six Nations 0 1 0 10 4 1
Overall 25 18 36 10 33 21

Including 2015 Championship

Rugby World Cup[edit]

Ireland and Australia contesting a line-out in the 2011 Rugby World Cup
World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
Year Round P W D L F A P W D L F A
AustraliaNew Zealand 1987 Quarter Final 4 2 0 2 99 74 Automatically qualified
United KingdomRepublic of IrelandFrance 1991 Quarter Final 4 2 0 2 120 70
South Africa 1995 Quarter Final 4 2 0 2 105 130
Wales 1999 Quarter Final playoff 4 2 0 2 124 73 2 2 0 0 123 35
Australia 2003 Quarter Final 5 3 0 2 162 99 2 2 0 0 98 17
France 2007 Pool Stage 4 2 0 2 64 82 Automatically qualified
New Zealand 2011 Quarter Final 5 4 0 1 145 56
England 2015 - - - - - - -
Total 8/8 30 17 0 13 819 584 4 4 0 0 221 52

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.

In the first tournament, held in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, Ireland finished second in their pool after a loss to Wales, before Ireland were knocked out by Australia in the quarter final in Sydney.

In 1991 Ireland again lost one match in pool play, this time to Scotland. Ireland again met Australian in the quarter-finals, losing by one point.

In 1995 Ireland were runner-up in their pool to the All Blacks. Ireland were defeated by France in their quarter-final in Durban.

In 1999 Ireland finished second in their pool 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, Ireland were not given automatic entry into the 2003 tournament.

In qualifying matches, Ireland defeated Russia and Georgia to advance to the 2003 tournament. Ireland finished second to Australia in their pool, and were knocked out by France in the quarter finals.

In the 2007 World Cup Ireland played in the so-called "Group of death" with hosts France, Argentina, Namibia and Georgia. Ireland defeated Namibia in their opening game 32–17.[51] Their progress was then put into doubt when they beat Georgia 14–10, not obtaining a bonus point.[52] Ireland lost to France 25–3.[53] Entering their last group match against Argentina, needing four tries to secure a bonus point without allowing Argentina anything, Ireland were defeated 30-15 and crashed out at the pool stage for the first time.[54]

Ireland were in Pool C for the 2011 Rugby World Cup with Australia, Russia, USA and Italy. Their first pool game was against the USA, which ended in a 22–10 victory for Ireland.[55] Ireland's second pool game was against Australia. Despite being underdogs, Ireland recorded their first victory over Australia at a World Cup with a 15–6 win.[56] Ireland comfortably beat Russia 62–12 in their third pool game.[57] Ireland secured first place in the pool with a 36–6 win over Italy, the first time that Ireland were group winners in their World Cup history.[58] Ireland lost their quarter final to Wales 10–22.[59]


Top 25 Rankings as 23 March 2015[60]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 93.70
2 Steady  South Africa 88.23
3 Steady  Ireland 85.76
4 Steady  England 85.40
5 Steady  Wales 84.07
6 Steady  Australia 82.95
7 Steady  France 79.74
8 Steady  Argentina 78.23
9 Steady  Samoa 75.39
10 Steady  Scotland 74.79
11 Steady  Japan 74.70
12 Steady  Fiji 74.57
13 Steady  Tonga 74.12
14 Increase1  Georgia 72.16
15 Decrease1  Italy 71.85
16 Steady  United States 67.61
17 Increase1  Canada 66.83
18 Decrease1  Romania 66.23
19 Steady  Russia 64.65
20 Steady  Uruguay 63.58
21 Steady  Spain 62.59
23 Steady  Namibia 58.27
23 Steady  Portugal 57.40
24 Steady  South Korea 57.22
25 Steady  Belgium 56.14
*Change from the previous week
Ireland's Historical Rankings
Ireland IRB World Rankings.png
Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 6 October 2014[60]

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by an Ireland national XV at test level up until 21 March 2015.[61]

Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
 Argentina 15 10 5 0 66.67% 331 283 +48
 Australia 32 10 21 1 31.25% 453 657 -204
 Canada 6 5 0 1 83.33% 226 77 +149
 England 129 47 74 8 36.43% 1056 1484 -428
 Fiji 3 3 0 0 100.00% 149 31 +118
 France 93 31 55 7 33.33% 1084 1508 -424
 Georgia 4 4 0 0 100.00% 196 31 +165
 Italy 24 20 4 0 83.33% 772 382 +390
 Japan 5 5 0 0 100.00% 251 83 +168
 Namibia 4 2 2 0 50.00% 117 65 +52
 New Zealand 28 0 27 1 0.00% 310 812 -502
 New Zealand Natives 1 0 1 0 0.00% 1G 4G -3G
 Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100.00% 61 17 +44
 Presidents XV 1 0 0 1 0.00% 18 18 0
 Romania 8 8 0 0 100.00% 346 92 +254
 Russia 2 2 0 0 100.00% 97 15 +82
 Samoa 6 5 1 0 83.33% 209 103 +106
 Scotland 130 59 66 5 45.38% 1416 1420 -4
 South Africa 22 5 16 1 22.73% 277 432 -155
 Tonga 2 2 0 0 100.00% 72 28 +44
 United States 8 8 0 0 100.00% 306 82 +224
 Wales 121 49 66 6 40.50% 1320 1424 -104
 Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 100.00% 55 11 +44
Total 646 277 338 31 42.88% 9118 8968 +150


Current squad[edit]

On 1 February, following the Ireland Wolfhounds match, Ireland reduced the extended 46-man squad down to a 38-man squad for the 2015 Six Nations Championship.[62]

On 24 February, Billy Holland and Roger Wilson were added to the squad as injury cover for Jamie Heaslip.[63]

On 9 March, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong and Dan Tuohy were added to the squad for the final two matches against Wales and Scotland.[64]

  • Caps updated: 21 March 2015

Head Coach: New Zealand Joe Schmidt
Note: Flags indicate national union for the club/province as defined by World Rugby.

Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province
Rory Best Hooker (1982-08-15) 15 August 1982 (age 32) 83 Ireland Ulster
Sean Cronin Hooker (1986-05-06) 6 May 1986 (age 28) 43 Ireland Leinster
Richardt Strauss Hooker (1986-01-29) 29 January 1986 (age 29) 6 Ireland Leinster
Michael Bent Prop (1986-04-25) 25 April 1986 (age 28) 2 Ireland Leinster
James Cronin Prop (1990-11-23) 23 November 1990 (age 24) 2 Ireland Munster
Tadhg Furlong Prop (1992-11-14) 14 November 1992 (age 22) 0 Ireland Leinster
Cian Healy Prop (1987-10-07) 7 October 1987 (age 27) 51 Ireland Leinster
Jack McGrath Prop (1989-10-11) 11 October 1989 (age 25) 17 Ireland Leinster
Martin Moore Prop (1991-03-01) 1 March 1991 (age 24) 10 Ireland Leinster
Mike Ross Prop (1979-12-21) 21 December 1979 (age 35) 49 Ireland Leinster
Nathan White Prop (1981-09-04) 4 September 1981 (age 33) 0 Ireland Connacht
Iain Henderson Lock (1992-02-21) 21 February 1992 (age 23) 17 Ireland Ulster
Mike McCarthy Lock (1981-11-27) 27 November 1981 (age 33) 17 Ireland Leinster
Paul O'Connell (c) Lock (1979-10-20) 20 October 1979 (age 35) 101 Ireland Munster
Devin Toner Lock (1986-06-29) 29 June 1986 (age 28) 24 Ireland Leinster
Dan Tuohy Lock (1985-06-18) 18 June 1985 (age 29) 10 Ireland Ulster
Billy Holland Flanker (1985-08-03) 3 August 1985 (age 29) 0 Ireland Munster
Jordi Murphy Flanker (1991-04-22) 22 April 1991 (age 23) 9 Ireland Leinster
Seán O'Brien Flanker (1987-02-14) 14 February 1987 (age 28) 34 Ireland Leinster
Tommy O'Donnell Flanker (1987-05-21) 21 May 1987 (age 27) 8 Ireland Munster
Peter O'Mahony Flanker (1989-09-17) 17 September 1989 (age 25) 30 Ireland Munster
Dominic Ryan Flanker (1990-03-28) 28 March 1990 (age 25) 1 Ireland Leinster
Robbie Diack Number 8 (1985-11-12) 12 November 1985 (age 29) 2 Ireland Ulster
Jamie Heaslip Number 8 (1983-12-15) 15 December 1983 (age 31) 72 Ireland Leinster
Roger Wilson Number 8 (1981-09-21) 21 September 1981 (age 33) 1 Ireland Ulster
Isaac Boss Scrum-half (1980-04-09) 9 April 1980 (age 34) 21 Ireland Leinster
Kieran Marmion Scrum-half (1992-02-11) 11 February 1992 (age 23) 3 Ireland Connacht
Conor Murray Scrum-half (1989-04-20) 20 April 1989 (age 25) 35 Ireland Munster
Eoin Reddan Scrum-half (1980-11-20) 20 November 1980 (age 34) 60 Ireland Leinster
Ian Keatley Fly-half (1987-04-01) 1 April 1987 (age 27) 4 Ireland Munster
Ian Madigan Fly-half (1989-03-21) 21 March 1989 (age 26) 18 Ireland Leinster
Jonathan Sexton Fly-half (1985-07-11) 11 July 1985 (age 29) 51 France Racing Métro
Darren Cave Centre (1987-04-05) 5 April 1987 (age 27) 8 Ireland Ulster
Gordon D'Arcy Centre (1980-02-10) 10 February 1980 (age 35) 81 Ireland Leinster
Robbie Henshaw Centre (1993-06-12) 12 June 1993 (age 21) 10 Ireland Connacht
Jared Payne Centre (1985-10-13) 13 October 1985 (age 29) 6 Ireland Ulster
Tommy Bowe Wing (1984-02-22) 22 February 1984 (age 31) 61 Ireland Ulster
Keith Earls Wing (1987-10-02) 2 October 1987 (age 27) 39 Ireland Munster
Luke Fitzgerald Wing (1987-09-13) 13 September 1987 (age 27) 28 Ireland Leinster
David Kearney Wing (1989-06-19) 19 June 1989 (age 25) 7 Ireland Leinster
Simon Zebo Wing (1990-03-16) 16 March 1990 (age 25) 15 Ireland Munster
Felix Jones Fullback (1987-08-05) 5 August 1987 (age 27) 11 Ireland Munster
Rob Kearney Fullback (1986-03-26) 26 March 1986 (age 29) 62 Ireland Leinster

Hall of Fame[edit]

Eight former Ireland players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame; five of these individuals have also had the added honour of induction into the IRB Hall of Fame—Kyle in 2008;[65] McBride, Millar and O'Reilly in 2009;[66] and Gibson in 2011.[67] Ronnie Dawson, who is not a member of the International Hall, was inducted into the IRB Hall in 2013.[68]

British and Irish Lions[edit]

The following Ireland players have represented the British and Irish Lions.[69]

Individual records[edit]

Four players have represented Ireland in 100 Tests or more: Brian O'Driscoll with 133 caps, Ronan O'Gara with 128, John Hayes with 105, and Paul O'Connell with 100.[71] Including Lions caps, O'Driscoll has 141 caps (the highest total in the sport's history), O'Gara has 130 and Hayes has 107. O'Gara also holds the Ireland record for Test points with 1,083,[72] placing him fourth all-time in international rugby. He also holds the record for highest ever points scorer in the Six Nations, with 557.[73] O'Driscoll has scored 46 tries for Ireland – an Irish record.[74] The side's youngest ever player is Frank Hewitt, who was aged 17 years and 157 days when he played for Ireland against Wales in 1924. The oldest player is Hayes, who earned a cap against Scotland at the age of 37 years and 277 days.


The IRFU first decided to appoint a coach in 1968

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]