Ireland national rugby union team
|Union||Irish Rugby Football Union|
|Head coach||Joe Schmidt|
|Most caps||Brian O'Driscoll (133)|
|Top scorer||Ronan O'Gara (1,083)|
|Top try scorer||Brian O'Driscoll (46)|
|Home stadium||Aviva Stadium|
|World Rugby ranking|
|Current||4 (as of 28th November 2016)|
England 7–0 Ireland|
(15 February 1875)
United States 3–83 Ireland|
(10 June 2000)
New Zealand 60–0 Ireland|
(23 June 2012)
|Appearances||8 (First in 1987)|
|Best result||Quarter-finals, 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015|
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 the Six Nations Championship, which they have won twelve times outright and shared eight times. The team also competes 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 second, which they reached for the first time in 2015. As of 7th November 2016, Ireland are 5th 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, and led Ireland to only their second Grand Slam in 2009.
Early years: 1875–1900
Dublin University was the first organised rugby football club in Ireland, having been founded in 1854. The club was organised by students who had learnt the game while at public schools in Great Britain. During the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and following the adoption of a set of official rules in 1868, rugby football began to spread quickly throughout Ireland, resulting in the formation of several other clubs which are still in existence, including NIFC (1868); Wanderers (1869); Queen's University (1869); Lansdowne (1873); Dungannon (1873); Co. Carlow (1873); UCC (1874); and Ballinasloe (1875) which amalgamated with Athlone to form Buccaneers.
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, 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. 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
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.
In 1948, Ireland clinched their first Grand Slam in the Five Nations. Ireland were champions and Triple Crown winners again in 1949. In 1951, Ireland were once more crowned Five Nations champions. 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, their Test record being won one, drawn one.
On 27 February 1954, Ireland played Scotland at Ravenhill in Belfast. The eleven Republic-based players protested "God Save the Queen", and an abbreviated anthem known as "the Salute" was instead played. Ireland beat Scotland 6–0, and did not play in Northern Ireland again until 2007. In 1958, Ireland beat Australia 9–6 in Dublin, the first time a major touring team had been defeated.
Ireland managed just three victories in the Five Nations Championship during the early 1960s: against England in 1961, Wales in 1963 and England again in 1964. 1965 saw an improvement as Ireland beat England and Scotland.
On 10 April 1965 at Lansdowne Road Ireland recorded their first ever win over South Africa. Ireland beat Australia again in Dublin in 1967. Ireland 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. In 1969, Ireland claimed a 17–9 victory over France in the Five Nations, a first victory over Les Bleus in 11 years. In the autumn of 1969, the Irish Rugby Football Union appointed a coach for the national team for the first time, the role went to Ronnie Dawson.
Later 20th century: 1970–94
The 1972 Five Nations Championship was not completed when Scotland and 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 five-minute standing ovation. Ireland won 18–9. Ireland came close to a first win over the All Blacks on 20 January 1973, but tied 10–10. In 1974, Ireland won their first Five Nations Championship since 1951.
Willie John McBride was coach until 1984. In 1982, Ireland, led by fly-half Ollie Campbell, win the Five Nations and their first Triple Crown in 33 years. Three years later in 1985, Ireland won the Five Nations and the Triple Crown again. It would be Ireland's last silverware until 2004. Ireland scored 10 tries against Romania in a 60–0 win on 1 November 1986, the biggest win in international rugby at the time, equalling the French record set in 1967. At the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, victories over Tonga and Canada saw Ireland through to the quarter-finals, where they were beaten 33–15 by joint hosts Australia.
Ireland failed to win the Five Nations in the whole of the 1990s, never finishing outside the bottom two. In 1991, they lost their test series against Namibia. At the second Rugby World Cup in 1991, after wins over Japan and Zimbabwe, Ireland lost 24–15 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 England at Twickenham.
Professional era and new stadium: 1995–2010
At the 1995 World Cup, Ireland came through their group to make their third consecutive quarter-final appearance. Unfortunately, France proved too strong, with Ireland going down 36–12 in the quarter finals.
The start of the professional era was disappointing for Ireland, who finished bottom of the Five Nations Championship three years in succession (1996, 1997 and 1998). Warren Gatland took over as coach in 1998, but was unable to produce immediate success. The 1999 World Cup was staged primarily in Wales, though Ireland played all their pool games in Dublin. In a play-off, Ireland were beaten 28–24 by Argentina, marking the first time that Ireland failed to reach the quarter finals.
From this nadir, however, Irish rugby improved. The Irish Rugby Football Union converted the four representative provincial sides into de facto club sides, and the formation in 2001 of the Celtic League (now called the Pro12) provided Irish provincial sides with regular competitive rugby.
The advent of the new Six Nations format coincided with this Irish resurgence. In 2001, Ireland finished second. Eddie O'Sullivan took over as coach in November 2001 after Warren Gatland was sacked. The 2003 Six Nations Championship saw Ireland lose to England in the Grand Slam decider at Lansdowne Road, ending a home unbeaten run that stretched to 10 tests since September 2002.
In the 2006 Six Nations, Ireland won the Triple Crown for the second time in three years. In the last autumn international at Lansdowne Road, Ireland beat Australia 21–6 to reach a best-ever third in the IRB World Rankings.
With the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road, a new venue was required. Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, hosted some games from 2007 to 2010. Ireland's 2008 Six Nations campaign included three losses. Eddie O'Sullivan resigned as Ireland coach and Declan Kidney was appointed.
Ireland won the 2009 Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam, their first Six Nations win since 1985 and their first Grand Slam since 1948. After a victory against South Africa and a draw against Australia, Ireland ended 2009 unbeaten.
In Ireland's final game of the 2010 Six Nations, and the last-ever game at Croke Park, Ireland lost to Scotland 20–23 and failed to win the Triple Crown. Ireland began their 2010 Autumn Tests with a 21–23 loss to South Africa, the first international at the new Aviva Stadium.
2011 to present
In the 2011 Six Nations Championship, Ireland lost 22–25 to France in the first Six Nations match to be played at the Aviva Stadium. During a 13–19 loss against Wales, Ireland's Ronan O'Gara became the first Irishman, and only the fifth player, to score 1,000-points. In Ireland's 24–8 win against England, Brian O'Driscoll scored his 25th try to set a new Six Nations record for tries scored.
In their 2012 Six Nations Championship campaign Ireland finished third overall. Ireland's 2012 summer tour of New Zealand included a 22–19 loss, followed by a 60–0 thrashing, Ireland's heaviest ever defeat.
The 2013 Six Nations Championship saw Ireland finish with one win, three losses, and one draw, including their first home loss to England in 10 years; and their first ever loss to Italy in the Six Nations. The IRFU declined to extend Declan Kidney's contract, and Joe Schmidt was announced as the new Ireland coach. In their 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests, Ireland lost 22–24 to New Zealand, having led throughout the match.
Ireland opened their 2014 Six Nations Championship with wins over Scotland and Wales. Ireland lost 10–13 to England. Ireland won their next match against Italy 46–7. Ireland beat France 22–20 in the final round to claim the Six Nations title. In November they defeated South Africa 29–15 and Australia 26–23 at Dublin.
Ireland retained the Six Nations Championship in 2015 with a 40–10 win over Scotland. Ireland became Six Nations Champions for the second year running on points difference. Following wins against Wales and Scotland during warm-up matches for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Ireland briefly reached its highest-ever position of second in the World Rugby rankings.
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 were the sponsors of the team up until the summer of 2016 where Vodafone then became the main sponsor.
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.
|Period||Kit manufacturer||Shirt sponsor|
|?–1991||Umbro||No shirt sponsor|
* Between 1996 and summer 2000, it was known as Irish Permanent before reverting to Permanent TSB before the sponsorship ended in summer 2006.
Flags and anthems
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 both Ireland ("the Republic") and 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 "God Save the Queen" was played before matches in Belfast and the national anthem of Ireland "Amhrán na bhFiann" was played for matches in Dublin. No anthem was played at away games. In the 1987 Rugby World Cup, The Rose of Tralee was used as the away anthem.
Since April 1995, a specifically composed anthem named "Ireland's Call" has been used exclusively by the Irish team at away games. This has prompted some players and supporter complaints that "Amhrán na bhFiann" should also be played. At games played in Dublin "Ireland's Call" is always used alongside "Amhrán na bhFiann". This use of "Amhrán na bhFiann" has caused similar complaints from players and supporters within a segment of the unionist community in Northern Ireland. 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 with the explanation given that both Ireland's Call and Amhrán na bhFiann are only played together in Dublin, and that outside the Irish Republic the anthem of Ireland's Call is exclusively used.
At the 2011 Rugby World Cup and 2015 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, to which the six Irish counties in Northern Ireland belong.
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 had been 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.
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 the event of a clash.
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.
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, also winning the Triple Crown. 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.
Rugby World Cup
|World Cup record||World Cup Qualification record|
|1987||Quarter Final||4||2||0||2||99||74||Automatically qualified|
|1999||Quarter Final playoff||4||2||0||2||124||73||2||2||0||0||123||35|
|2007||Pool Stage||4||2||0||2||64||82||Automatically qualified|
Ireland have competed at every Rugby World Cup tournament. The furthest they have progressed is the quarter-finals, which they have made six times out of eight. They have finished top of their pool twice, in 2011, after beating pool favourite Australia, and in 2015 leaving France in 2nd place.
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 Australia in the quarter-finals, losing by one point.
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. Their progress was then put into doubt when they beat Georgia 14–10, not obtaining a bonus point. Ireland lost to France 25–3. 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.
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. 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. Ireland comfortably beat Russia 62–12 in their third pool game. 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. Ireland lost their quarter final to Wales 10–22.
Ireland topped Pool D of the 2015 Rugby World Cup with four victories, two with bonus points. They kicked off their campaign with a 50-7 win over Canada. Another bonus point victory followed in front of a world record Rugby World Cup crowd of 89,267 at the home of England football, Wembley Stadium. Ireland then saw off Romania 44-10. Ireland then faced Italy, coming out on top 16-9, the only try coming from Keith Earls who surpassed Brian O'Driscoll as Ireland's leading Rugby World Cup try scorer with eight. The final pool game saw Ireland face France. The winner would set up a quarter final against Argentina and avoid the All Blacks. Ireland overcame the loss to injury of key players Jonathan Sexton, Peter O'Mahony and Paul O'Connell to run out 24-9 winners. The victory set up another game for Ireland in the Millennium Stadium against Pool C runners up Argentina on 18 October 2015. Ireland battled and came back from a 17-point deficit to come within 3 points of their opponents, but a series of mistakes spelt the end for Ireland's RWC of 2015.
|Top 30 rankings as of 5 December 2016|
|*Change from the previous week|
|Ireland's historical rankings|
|Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 14 November 2015|
|New Zealand Natives||1||0||1||0||0.00%||1G||4G||-3G|
- Caps updated: 26 November 2016
Hall of Fame
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; McBride, Millar and O'Reilly in 2009; and Gibson in 2011. Ronnie Dawson, who is not a member of the International Hall, was inducted into the IRB Hall in 2013. Brian O'Driscoll] was inducted into the IRB Hall of fame in 2016, in an event held in *Twickenham Stadium.
Main article: List of Ireland national rugby union team records
Five players have represented Ireland in 100 Tests or more: Brian O'Driscoll with 133 caps, Ronan O'Gara with 128, Paul O'Connell with 108, John Hayes with 105 and Rory Best with 100. Including Lions caps, O'Driscoll has 141 caps (2nd highest in rugby), O'Gara has 130, O'Connell has 115, Hayes has 107 and Best 100.
O'Gara also holds the Ireland record for Test points with 1,083, placing him fourth all-time in international rugby. He also holds the record for highest points scorer in the Six Nations with 557. O'Driscoll has scored 46 tries for Ireland – an Irish record.
British and Irish Lions
The following Ireland players have represented the British and Irish Lions.
The IRFU first decided to appoint a coach in 1968. The current head coach is Joe Schmidt who has been in the position since 2013.