Ireland national rugby union team

Last updated

Ireland
Irfu jersey logo.svg
Emblem Shamrock
Union Irish Rugby Football Union
Head coach Andy Farrell
Captain Peter O'Mahony
Most caps Brian O'Driscoll (133)
Top scorer Johnny Sexton (1,108)
Top try scorer Brian O'Driscoll (46)
Home stadium Aviva Stadium
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Kit left arm.svg
Kit body whitecollar.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm thinwhiteborder.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks band white.png
Kit socks long.svg
First colours
Kit left arm thingreenborder.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body greencollar.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm thingreenborder.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks greentop.png
Kit socks long.svg
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current2 (as of 11 March 2024)
Highest1 (2019, 2022–2023)
Lowest9 (2013)
First international
Flag of England.svg  England 7–0 Ireland  Saint Patrick's Saltire.svg
(Kennington, England; 15 February 1875)
Biggest win
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 3–83 Ireland  IRFU flag.svg
(Manchester, New Hampshire; 10 June 2000)
Biggest defeat
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 60–0 Ireland  IRFU flag.svg
(Hamilton, New Zealand; 23 June 2012)
World Cup
Appearances10 (First in 1987 )
Best resultQuarter-finals (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019, 2023)
Website www.irishrugby.ie

The Ireland national rugby union team (Irish : Foireann rugbaí náisiúnta na hÉireann) is the men's representative national team for the island of Ireland in rugby union. The team represents both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland competes in the annual Six Nations Championship and in the Rugby World Cup. Ireland is one of the four unions that make up the British & Irish Lions – players eligible to play for Ireland are also eligible for the Lions.

Contents

The Ireland national team dates to 1875, when it played its first international match against England. Ireland reached number 1 in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time in 2019; [1] the team returned to number 1 for a second time on 18 July 2022, and did not relinquish the top spot until the rankings of 2 October 2023. [2] Eleven former Ireland players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

History

Early years: 1875–1900

Dublin University was the first organised rugby football club in Ireland, having been founded in 1854. [3] 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 that are still in existence, including NIFC (1868); Wanderers (1869); Queen's University (1869); Lansdowne (1873); Dungannon (1873); County Carlow (1873); UCC (1874); and Ballinasloe (1875) which amalgamated with Athlone to form Buccaneers. [4]

First Ireland rugby team: defeated by England on 15 February 1875 at The Oval, by two goals and a try to nil Ireland rugby first 1875.jpg
First Ireland rugby team: defeated by England on 15 February 1875 at The Oval, by two goals and a try to nil

In December 1874, the Irish Football Union was formed. Initially, there were two unions: the Irish Football Union, which had jurisdiction over clubs in Leinster, Munster and parts of Ulster and the Northern Football Union of Ireland which formed in January 1875 and controlled the Belfast area. [5] The IRFU was formed in 1879 as an amalgamation of these two organisations, convening for the first time on 5 February 1880. [6]

Ireland lost their first test match against England 0–7 at the Oval on 15 February 1875. Both teams fielded 20 players in this match, [7] 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. That same year Ireland's first home match, also against England, was held at Leinster Cricket Club's Observatory Lane ground in Rathmines, as Lansdowne Road was deemed unsuitable. [8] [9] [10] The first match at Lansdowne Road was held on 11 March 1878, with England beating Ireland by two goals and a try to nil. [10] [11]

Following a six-year period of defeats, in 1881 Ireland finally achieved their first test victory, beating Scotland at Ormeau in Belfast, following a late drop goal from John C Bagot. [12] Ireland turned up two men short for their test in Cardiff in 1884 and had to borrow two Welsh players. [13] Ireland's first test match victory at Lansdowne Road on 5 February 1887, was also their first win over England, with the final score of two goals to nil. [11] 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 Thomas Crean. [14] 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 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

South Africa and Ireland teams posing together at their 1912 test at Lansdowne Road. South africa ireland teams 1912.jpg
South Africa and Ireland teams posing together at their 1912 test at Lansdowne Road.
1920 illustration of the Ireland versus Wales match Ireland-v-Wales-1920.jpg
1920 illustration of the Ireland versus Wales match

Such was the level of interest in the visit of the first New Zealand 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: 1945–70

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. The tour included two test matches, their Test record being won one, drawn one. In total, out of the nine matches played, the Irish side was only defeated once by Club Pucará.

On 27 February 1954, Ireland played Scotland at Ravenhill in Belfast. The 11 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. [15]

In 1958, Ireland beat Australia 9–6 in Dublin, the first time a major touring team had been defeated. [16]

In the 1958–59 season Ireland came second in the Five Nations beating both Scotland and France who had already won the series.

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. [17] In January 1967 Ireland again beat Australia in Dublin, 15–8. [18] Ireland became the first of the home nations to win in the Southern Hemisphere and the first of the Five Nations sides to win in Australia, when they beat Australia 5–11, in Sydney in May 1967. [18] 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 Ireland team that played Argentina at Ferro Carril Oeste in 1970 Irlanda en argentina 1970.jpg
The Ireland team that played Argentina at Ferro Carril Oeste in 1970

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. [19] 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. [20] Ireland won 18–9. Ireland came close to a first win over the All Blacks on 20 January 1973, but drew 10–10. In 1974, Ireland won their first Five Nations Championship since 1951.

The decision to play two tests in apartheid-era South Africa in May 1981 led to boycotts of Irish athletes in other codes, and was not supported by the Irish government. [21] Several prominent players refused to participate in the tour, while others were refused leave by their employers for the tour. [22]

Willie John McBride was coach until 1984. In 1982, Ireland, led by out-half Ollie Campbell, won 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 was Ireland's last silverware until 2004. Ireland scored 10 tries against Romania in a 60–0 win on 1 November 1986, the biggest win by a Tier One country in international rugby at the time. [23] [24] 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 15–24 at Murrayfield. Ireland played the Wallabies at Lansdowne Road in the quarter-finals 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

Ireland playing at Croke Park Croke park 2.jpg
Ireland playing at Croke Park

At the 1995 World Cup, Ireland came through their group to make their third consecutive quarter-final appearance. France proved too strong, with Ireland going down 12–36 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) and lost to Italy three times, at home (29–37) and abroad (12–22 and 22–37). 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 Pro14) provided Irish provincial sides with regular competitive rugby. The move to provincial professionalism was a significant success, relying on strong provincial identities long recongised in Irish sport.

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.

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

In the 2004 Six Nations, Ireland finished second overall and won the Triple Crown. In the 2005 Six Nations, Ireland finished in third place.

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.

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. [25]

Brian O'Driscoll lifts the 2009 Six Nations Grand slam trophy. 2009 Six Nations Champions - Ireland.jpg
Brian O'Driscoll lifts the 2009 Six Nations Grand slam trophy.

Ireland won the 2009 Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam, their first Six Nations win since 1985 and their first Grand Slam since 1948. [26] [27] After a draw against Australia and victories against Fiji and South Africa, Ireland ended 2009 unbeaten. [28]

The Aviva Stadium The fabulous Aviva Stadium.jpg
The Aviva Stadium

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. [29] 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. [30]

In their 2012 Six Nations Championship campaign Ireland finished third overall. [31] Ireland's 2012 summer tour of New Zealand included a 22–19 loss, followed by a 60–0 thrashing, Ireland's heaviest ever defeat. [32]

Ireland celebrate their 2014 Six Nations Championship. Six nations 2014 France vs Ireland Remise de trophee.JPG
Ireland celebrate their 2014 Six Nations Championship.

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; [33] and their first ever loss to Italy in the Six Nations. [34] The IRFU declined to extend Declan Kidney's contract, and Joe Schmidt was announced as the new Ireland coach. [35] In their 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests, Ireland lost 22–24 to New Zealand, having led throughout the match. [36]

Ireland opened their 2014 Six Nations Championship with wins over Scotland and Wales. [37] Ireland lost 10–13 to England. [38] Ireland won their next match against Italy 46–7. [39] Ireland beat France 22–20 in the final round to claim the Six Nations title. [40] In November they defeated South Africa 29–15 and Australia 26–23 at Dublin.

Ireland retained the 2015 Six Nations Championship, and 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 won its pool at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with a 24–9 victory over France, but lost in the quarter-finals to Argentina 20–43. [41]

Entering the 2016 Six Nations competition with a squad depleted by injury, Ireland won only two matches in the tournament (58–15 against Italy in Round 4, and 35–25 against Scotland in Round 5), and only achieved a 16–16 draw against Wales. The team went on to win the first of their three-match tour of South Africa 26–20, before losing the second and third tests 26–32 and 13–19. In autumn of the same year, Ireland defeated the New Zealand All Blacks for the first time ever on 5 November 2016 in Chicago by 40–29. [42] This was New Zealand's only loss all year, and ended their record-breaking win streak of 18 test matches. Despite New Zealand winning the return fixture in Dublin the following week 21–9, Ireland moved up to fourth in the world rankings. It had taken a wait of 111 years for Ireland to finally beat New Zealand with the first match being played in 1905.

Ireland placed second in the 2017 Six Nations Championship, behind defending champions England, who the Irish defeated in the final of round of the competition by 13–9, ending England's record-equalling run of 18 victories since 2015. However, they lost to Scotland 22–27 in Round 1 and Wales 9–22 in Round 4 during the same tournament. With many first-choice players selected to tour with the British & Irish Lions, Ireland took a development squad into their summer games that year, which included a 55–19 win over the USA, and a 2–0 test series victory against Japan. In November 2017, Ireland moved to third in the world rankings following their biggest-ever win over South Africa, 38–3, and victories over Fiji and Argentina.

After winning the 2018 Six Nations Championship with a Grand Slam, Ireland moved up to second in the world rankings. [43] [44] A 2–1 series win over Australia in summer that year was followed by a second victory in two years against the world number one All Blacks, by 16–9 which cemented Ireland's number two ranking and most accumulated rating points (91.17) in their history. [45] Following their success in the Six Nations, the Australia tour and the autumn internationals, Ireland were named 2018 World Rugby Team of the Year with Joe Schmidt claiming World Rugby Coach of the Year. [46]

The 2019 Six Nations started with a defeat to England, by 20–32. After this, they beat Scotland, Italy and France, but the competition concluded with a loss against Grand Slam winners Wales which ended 7–25. The Welsh led the Irish by 25–0 going into overtime, until a last-gasp try from replacement half-back Jordan Larmour. [47] However, Ireland achieved some redress when they defeated Wales back-to-back, home and away, in the 2019 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches and subsequently reached number 1 in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time in their history, which they retained going in to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. [48] [49]

The 2019 Rugby World Cup ended in disappointment for the Irish, who opened their campaign with a rousing 27–3 win over Scotland, [50] but were felled the following round in a shock 12–19 defeat to tournament hosts Japan. [51] Ireland overcame their other pool opponents Russia (35–0) and Samoa (47–5) to reach the quarter-finals, but were knocked out by New Zealand 46–14. [52] The loss to the All Blacks represented Ireland's seventh exit at the quarter-finals of a World Cup, having never reached a semi-final, and saw their place in the world rankings fall from 1st going into the tournament to 5th by its conclusion. [53]

2020 saw Ireland's first Six Nations campaign under former defense coach Andy Farrell, who replaced Joe Schmidt after the World Cup, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the disruption, Ireland notched wins against Scotland (19–12) and Wales (24–14) before losing against England 12–24. Ireland's fourth-round game against Italy was delayed until October that year, with the Irish recording a 50–17 win, going on to a 27–35 defeat against France to finish the truncated tournament in 3rd place. In the subsequent Autumn Nations Cup, Ireland again defeated Wales (32–9) and Scotland (31–16) but were beaten once again by England, 7–18. Their performance in the game against Georgia, although a comfortable win on the scoreboard (23–10) was criticized for a perceived lack of spirit or tactical ingenuity. [54] Ireland finished 2020 with their ranking unchanged, at 5th in the world.

The 2021 Six Nations took place again amidst the ongoing pandemic, with spectators still excluded. In this changed environment Ireland would have an indifferent campaign, once again finishing 3rd with wins over Italy (48–10), Scotland (27–24) and England (32–18), after losing their opening two matches to France (13–15) and eventual champions Wales (16–21). [55] Ireland played most of the game against Wales down to 14 men after veteran flanker Peter O'Mahony became the first Irish player to be red carded in a Six Nations match, for a foul on Wynn Jones in the 14th minute. [56] Ireland achieved two victories in the 2021 July tests against Japan (39–31) and the United States (71–10). Ireland finished the season with an 8–2 record, following a clean sweep in the Autumn Nations series, defeating Japan (60–5), New Zealand (29–20) and Argentina (53–7). [55]

Ireland opened their 2022 Six Nations campaign with an emphatic 29–7 victory over Wales, only to lose to France 30–24 the next week at the Stade De France. They then defeated an ill-disciplined Italy in Dublin 57–6 and got their biggest win over England at Twickenham since 1964 (15–32). [57] On the final day of the tournament, Ireland had to win against Scotland and France had to lose against England in order for Ireland to win the Championship. Ireland won the Triple Crown on the final day of the tournament, beating Scotland 26–5 in Dublin, but failed to win the Championship after France beat England 25–13 in Saint-Denis. [58]

After losing the opening test match of the 2022 New Zealand tour, Ireland scored their first victory against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil on 9 July 2022, their fourth win over New Zealand. [59] Three days later, they followed up their historic win with their first victory over the Maori All Blacks in four attempts, beating the side 24–30 in Wellington. [60] On 16 July 2022 Ireland became just the fifth touring side and first in the professional era to achieve a series win in New Zealand, beating the All Blacks 22–32 in Wellington for a 2–1 series victory. [61] Following that victory Ireland officially became the world number one team for the second time in their history. [62]

On 18 March 2023, Ireland won the Grand Slam for the fourth time in a 29–16 victory over England in Dublin. [63]

In September 2023, Ireland opened their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign with their biggest ever win at a Rugby World Cup beating Romania 82–8. [64] Ireland subsequently won their matches against eventual champions South Africa and against Scotland 36–14 at Stade de France. Despite their group stage success, Ireland still could not overcome the quarter-final hurdle, losing 24–28 to New Zealand. [65] [66] This loss also ended the side's 17 consecutive Test victories, an Irish record. [67] Having gained 19 table points this was Ireland's most successful group stage of a World Cup campaign.

Ireland's 31–7 victory over Wales in the 2024 Six Nations tied England's record for the most consecutive Six Nations victories at 11 and also extended Ireland's longest run of home wins to 18. [68] Ireland became back-to-back Six Nations outright champions for only the third time in their history, defeating Scotland 17–13 at home on 16 March 2024. [69]

Playing strip

Ireland's traditional strip consists of a green jersey, white shorts, and green socks. Their emblem consists of a shamrock and a 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 who became Permanent TSB after a merger, who continued to sponsor the shirt until the autumn of 2006. O2 were Ireland's main shirt sponsor from then until 2014. Three Ireland were the team sponsors 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, the IRFU signed a deal with Canterbury for the supply of Ireland's playing and training kit from November 2014 until 2020, [70] which was then extended to 2024. [71]

PeriodKit manufacturerShirt sponsor
1982–1985 O'Neills No shirt sponsor
1985–1991 Adidas
1991–1993 Umbro
1994–1996 Nike
1996–2000 Irish Permanent /
Permanent TSB*
2000–2006 Canterbury
2006–2009 O2
2009–2014 Puma
2014–2016Canterbury 3
2016–present Vodafone
* Between 1996 and 2000 the company was known as Irish Permanent, before changing to Permanent TSB.

Flags and anthems

Flag of the IRFU IRFU flag.svg
Flag of the IRFU

The Irish rugby union team is one of many sporting teams that draws its players from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, and as such players and supporters may identify as Irish, Northern Irish, British or some combination thereof. This has led to issues surrounding the flags and national anthems.

When Ireland international matches used to be played alternately in Belfast and Dublin, the British national anthem "God Save the King/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. With the advent of the Rugby World Cup in 1987, anthems became more of a feature of matches. With the World Cup being hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Ireland's stance of having no away anthem began to stand out. Ireland used "The Rose of Tralee" for their match against Wales, but it was not well received and in the subsequent matches no anthem was played.

In early 1995, a new anthem, "Ireland's Call", was composed for the team, as the position of having no away anthem became unsustainable. [72] It is played at games held anywhere in Ireland and overseas matches.

Home matches are now nearly exclusively played in Dublin, where "Amhrán na bhFiann" is played first, followed by "Ireland's Call". [73] There has only been one match held in Belfast since 1953 - Ireland's test match against Italy in the run up to the World Cup in 2007. On this occasion, only "Ireland's Call" was played.

The debate over anthems continues to some degree, with some players and supporters arguing that "Amhrán na bhFiann" should be played overseas, while others arguing that the British National Anthem should be played before Belfast matches (when they occur). [74] The position of the IRFU is that outside the Republic of Ireland only "Ireland's Call" is to be played. [75] [76]

At the 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2015 Rugby World Cup, 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2023 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. [77]

Home grounds

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.

Aviva Stadium, on Lansdowne Road Aviva Stadium by Night.jpg
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 23–21. 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. [78]

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. [79]

Records

Overall

Top 20 as of 18 March 2024 [80]
RankChange*TeamPoints
1Steady2.svgFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 094.54
2Steady2.svgIRFU flag.svg  Ireland 090.69
3Steady2.svgFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 089.80
4Steady2.svgFlag of France.svg  France 087.92
5Steady2.svgFlag of England.svg  England 085.75
6Steady2.svgFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 082.82
7Steady2.svgFlag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 080.68
8Increase2.svg1Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 079.41
9Increase2.svg1Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 077.48
10Decrease2.svg2Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 077.26
11Steady2.svgFlag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 076.38
12Steady2.svgFlag of Japan.svg  Japan 074.27
13Steady2.svgFlag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 074.02
14Steady2.svgFlag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 072.23
15Increase2.svg1Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 071.57
16Decrease2.svg1Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 070.28
17Steady2.svgFlag of the United States.svg  United States 067.94
18Steady2.svgFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 067.39
19Steady2.svgFlag of Spain.svg  Spain 064.37
20Steady2.svgFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 061.66
21Steady2.svgFlag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 060.90
22Steady2.svgFlag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 060.56
23Steady2.svgFlag of Chile.svg  Chile 060.49
24Steady2.svgFlag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 059.80
25Steady2.svgFlag of Russia.svg  Russia 058.06
26Steady2.svgFlag of Switzerland (Pantone).svg   Switzerland 057.44
27Steady2.svgFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 057.29
28Increase2.svg1Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 055.89
29Decrease2.svg1Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 055.37
30Increase2.svg1Flag of South Korea.svg  Korea 053.46
* Change from the previous week
Ireland's historical rankings
See or edit source data.
Source: World Rugby [80]
Graph updated to 4 March 2024

Below is a table of test matches played by Ireland up to 16 March 2024. [81]

OpponentPlayedWonLostDrawnWin %FADiff
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 19 136068.42%460369+91
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 37 1422137.84%548746–198
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 870187.50%328105+223
Flag of England.svg  England 142 5381837.32%13141763–449
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 5500100%20768+139
Flag of France.svg  France 103 3759735.92%13111679–368
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 5 500100%21941+178
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 37 334089.19%1332538+794
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 10 91090%447173+274
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 422050%11765+52
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 37 531113.51%5161041–525
  New Zealand Natives 10100%1G4G–3G
Flag of rugby Pacific Islanders.svg Pacific Islanders 1100100%6117+44
  Presidents XV 10010%18180
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 101000100%472110+362
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 3300100%13215+117
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 871087.5%273121+152
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland [82] 142 7166550%17521522+230
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 28 918132.14%412530–118
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 3300100%13144+87
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 11 1100100%489125+364
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 135 5870742.96%16411646–5
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 1100100%5511+44
Total7513573623247.54%12,23510,747+1488

Home Nations – Five Nations – Six Nations championships

Ireland's Grand slam trophy haul in 2009 Ireland 2009 6 nations triple crown.jpg
Ireland's Grand slam trophy haul in 2009
 Flag of England.svg
England
Flag of France.svg
France
IRFU flag.svg
Ireland
Flag of Italy.svg
Italy
Flag of Scotland.svg
Scotland
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg
Wales
Tournaments1289513025130130
Outright wins (shared wins)
Home Nations5 (4)4 (3)9 (2)7 (3)
Five Nations17 (6)12 (8)6 (5)5 (6)15 (8)
Six Nations766006
Overall29 (10)18 (8)16 (8)0 (0)14 (8)28 (11)
Grand Slams
Home Nations2 [83]
Five Nations116136
Six Nations243004
Overall131040312
Triple Crowns
Home Nations5276
Five Nations164311
Six Nations5705
Overall26131022
Wooden Spoons
Home Nations71056
Five Nations1012151510
Six Nations0101842
Overall171325182418
Ireland's head-to-head record in the Home/Five/Six Nations Championship
OpponentPlayedWonDrawnLostWin %FADiff
Flag of England.svg  England 128 5276940.63%12311616–385
Flag of France.svg  France 95 3475435.79%11741499–325
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 25 240196%947322+625
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 130 6556050%15591392+167
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 125 5276641.6%14481503–55
Total5032272625045.13%63596332+27

Up to date as of 16 March 2024. [84]

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. Ireland won their third ever Grand Slam in the 2018 Six Nations Championship with a 24–15 win over England at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day. [85] Ireland won their fourth Grand slam and first in Dublin following their 29–16 victory over England in the 2023 Six Nations. [86] Ireland beat Scotland on 16 March 2024, to become back-to-back Six Nations outright champions for only the third time in history, emulating the class of 1949 and 2015. [69]

Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup Qualification
YearRoundPldWDLPFPASquadPosPldWDLPFPA
Flag of New Zealand.svg Flag of Australia (converted).svg 1987 Quarter-finals42029974 Squad Invited
Flag of England.svg Flag of France (lighter variant).svg IRFU flag.svg Flag of Scotland.svg Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 1991 Quarter-finals420212070 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of South Africa.svg 1995 Quarter-finals4202105130 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 1999 Quarter-finals play-off420212473 Squad 1st220012335
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2003 Quarter-finals530216299 Squad 1st22009817
Flag of France (lighter variant).svg 2007 Pool stage42026482 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of New Zealand.svg 2011 Quarter-finals540114556 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of England.svg 2015 Quarter-finals540115478 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of Japan.svg 2019 Quarter-finals530213573 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of France.svg 2023 Quarter-finals540121474 Squad Automatically qualified
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2027 Automatically qualified
TotalQuarter-finals45280171322809440022152
 Champions    Runners-up    Third place    Fourth placeHome venue

Ireland have competed at every Rugby World Cup tournament. The furthest they have progressed is the quarter-finals, which they have made eight times out of ten. They have finished top of their pool three times; in 2011, after beating pool favourite Australia, in 2015 leaving France in 2nd place, and in 2023 when they defeated the reigning world champions South Africa.

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 1995 Ireland were runner-up in their pool to the New Zealand national rugby union team. 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.

Ireland and Australia contesting a line-out in the 2011 Rugby World Cup Australia vs Ireland 2011 RWC (2).jpg
Ireland and Australia contesting a line-out in the 2011 Rugby World Cup

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. [87] Their progress was then put into doubt when they beat Georgia 14–10, not obtaining a bonus point. [88] Ireland lost to France 3–25. [89] Entering their last group match against Argentina, needing four tries to secure a bonus point without allowing Argentina anything, Ireland were defeated 15–30 and crashed out at the pool stage for the first time. [90]

Ireland were in Pool C for the 2011 Rugby World Cup with Australia, Russia, USA and Italy. Their first pool game, against the United States, ended in a 22–10 victory for Ireland. [91] 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. [92] Ireland comfortably beat Russia 62–12 in their third pool game. [93] 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. [94] Ireland lost their quarter-final to Wales 10–22. [95]

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. [96] Another bonus point victory followed in front of a world record Rugby World Cup crowd [97] of 89,267 at Wembley Stadium, when Ireland saw off Romania 44–10. [98] Ireland then faced Italy, coming out on top 16–9, [99] 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. Ireland came out 24–9 winners. [100] [101] The victory set up a game for Ireland against Pool C runners up Argentina. Ireland battled their opponents, but a series of mistakes spelt the end for Ireland's RWC of 2015.

Ireland qualified automatically for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. They played in pool A along with the hosts, Japan, Scotland, Russia and Samoa. They finished the pool with three wins and one loss to finish second behind Japan. They played New Zealand in the quarter-finals where they lost 46–14. [102]

Ireland went into the 2023 Rugby World Cup as the top-ranked team and started their campaign with a bonus point 82–8 win over Romania. During their 2nd match against Tonga, Johnny Sexton became Ireland's all-time top points scorer with a try in the 1st half. Ireland beat reigning world champions South Africa and then Scotland to finish top of their group. They played New Zealand in the quarter-final for the second tournament in a row, which they lost 24–28. [103]

Players

Current squad

On 17 January 2024, Ireland coach Andy Farrell named a 34-player squad for the Six Nations. [104]

Caps updated: 17 March 2024

Player Position Date of birth (age)CapsClub/province
Rónan Kelleher Hooker (1998-01-24) 24 January 1998 (age 26)31 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Dan Sheehan Hooker (1998-09-17) 17 September 1998 (age 25)26 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Tom Stewart Hooker (2001-01-11) 11 January 2001 (age 23)2 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Finlay Bealham Prop (1991-10-09) 9 October 1991 (age 32)40 IRFU flag.svg Connacht
Tadhg Furlong Prop (1992-11-14) 14 November 1992 (age 31)76 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Cian Healy Prop (1987-10-07) 7 October 1987 (age 36)129 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Oli Jager Prop (1995-07-05) 5 July 1995 (age 28)1 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Jeremy Loughman Prop (1995-07-22) 22 July 1995 (age 28)5 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Tom O'Toole Prop (1998-09-23) 23 September 1998 (age 25)13 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Andrew Porter Prop (1996-01-16) 16 January 1996 (age 28)64 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Ryan Baird Lock (1999-07-26) 26 July 1999 (age 24)20 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Tadhg Beirne Lock (1992-01-08) 8 January 1992 (age 32)50 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Iain Henderson Lock (1992-02-21) 21 February 1992 (age 32)81 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Joe McCarthy Lock (2001-03-26) 26 March 2001 (age 23)10 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
James Ryan Lock (1996-07-24) 24 July 1996 (age 27)62 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Jack Conan Back row (1992-07-29) 29 July 1992 (age 31)46 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Caelan Doris Back row (1998-04-02) 2 April 1998 (age 26)41 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Peter O'Mahony (c) Back row (1989-09-17) 17 September 1989 (age 34)105 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Nick Timoney Back row (1995-08-01) 1 August 1995 (age 28)3 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Josh van der Flier Back row (1993-04-25) 25 April 1993 (age 30)62 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Craig Casey Scrum-half (1999-04-19) 19 April 1999 (age 24)14 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Jamison Gibson-Park Scrum-half (1992-02-23) 23 February 1992 (age 32)35 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Conor Murray Scrum-half (1989-04-20) 20 April 1989 (age 34)116 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Harry Byrne Fly-half (1999-04-22) 22 April 1999 (age 24)4 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Jack Crowley Fly-half (2000-01-13) 13 January 2000 (age 24)14 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Ciarán Frawley Fly-half (1997-12-04) 4 December 1997 (age 26)4 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Bundee Aki Centre (1990-04-07) 7 April 1990 (age 34)56 IRFU flag.svg Connacht
Robbie Henshaw Centre (1993-06-12) 12 June 1993 (age 30)72 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Stuart McCloskey Centre (1992-08-06) 6 August 1992 (age 31)17 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Garry Ringrose Centre (1995-01-26) 26 January 1995 (age 29)58 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Jordan Larmour Wing (1997-06-10) 10 June 1997 (age 26)32 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
James Lowe Wing (1992-07-08) 8 July 1992 (age 31)31 IRFU flag.svg Leinster
Calvin Nash Wing (1997-08-08) 8 August 1997 (age 26)6 IRFU flag.svg Munster
Jacob Stockdale Wing (1996-04-03) 3 April 1996 (age 28)37 IRFU flag.svg Ulster
Hugo Keenan Fullback (1996-06-18) 18 June 1996 (age 27)39 IRFU flag.svg Leinster

Hall of Fame

Twelve former Ireland players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. The Hall was created in 2006 as the IRB Hall of Fame when the sport's governing body of World Rugby was known as the International Rugby Board. The separate International Rugby Hall of Fame, which had inducted five Ireland players, was merged into the IRB Hall in 2014, shortly before the IRB adopted its current name of World Rugby. All International Hall members who had not been separately inducted to the IRB Hall automatically became members of the renamed World Rugby Hall.

The table below indicates Irish players inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame and the year they were inducted in brackets.

Individual records

Ten players have represented Ireland in 100 tests or more: Brian O'Driscoll with 133 caps, Cian Healy with 129, Ronan O'Gara with 128, Rory Best with 124, Johnny Sexton with 118, Conor Murray with 116, Paul O'Connell with 108, John Hayes with 107 caps, Peter O'Mahony with 105 caps, and Keith Earls with 101 caps. [115] Including Lions caps, O'Driscoll has 141 caps (fifth highest in rugby), O'Gara has 130, Sexton and Murray has 124, O'Connell has 115, Hayes has 107 and O'Mahony has 106 caps.

Sexton also holds the Ireland record for test points with 1,108, [116] placing him fourth all-time in international rugby. He holds the record for highest points scorer in Six Nations history (566), in front of his teammate Ronan O'Gara (557). [117] Brian O'Driscoll scored 46 tries for Ireland – an Irish record. [118]

Award winners

World Rugby Awards

The following Ireland players have been recognised at the World Rugby Awards since 2001: [119]

World Rugby Try of the Year
YearDateScorerMatchTournament
2008 14 June Brian O'Driscoll vs. Australia Summer Internationals
2016 12 March Jamie Heaslip vs. Italy Six Nations

Six Nations Player of the Championship

The following Ireland players have been shortlisted for the Six Nations Player of the Championship since 2004: [120]

Six Nations Team of the Championship
Year1st XV2nd XV
ForwardsBacksForwardsBacks
No.PlayersNo.PlayersNo.PlayersNo.Players
2021 3. Tadhg Furlong 10. Johnny Sexton Not awarded
4. Tadhg Beirne
6. CJ Stander 12. Robbie Henshaw
2022 3. Tadhg Furlong (2)15. Hugo Keenan
7. Josh van der Flier
2023 1. Andrew Porter 10. Johnny Sexton (2)3. Tadhg Furlong 9. Conor Murray
2. Dan Sheehan 12. Bundee Aki
3. Finlay Bealham
5. James Ryan 11. James Lowe 13. Garry Ringrose
6. Peter O'Mahony 4. Tadhg Beirne
7. Josh van der Flier (2)15. Hugo Keenan (2)14. Mack Hansen
8. Caelan Doris
2024 1. Andrew Porter (2)9. Jamison Gibson-Park Not awarded
2. Dan Sheehan (2)
4. Tadhg Beirne (2)11. James Lowe (2)
5. Joe McCarthy
6. Caelan Doris (2)13. Bundee Aki

British & Irish Lions

The following Ireland players have represented the British & Irish Lions. [121]

Mick English 1959

Coaching and management

Current coaches

Correct as of 24 February 2024 [123]
PositionNameNationality
Head coach Andy Farrell Flag of England.svg  England
Assistant & attack coach Mike Catt Flag of England.svg  England
Defence & lineout coach Simon Easterby IRFU flag.svg  Ireland
Forwards & lineout coach Paul O'Connell IRFU flag.svg  Ireland
National scrum coach John Fogarty IRFU flag.svg  Ireland
Strength & conditioning coachCiaran RuddockIRFU flag.svg  Ireland
High performance analystVinny HammondIRFU flag.svg  Ireland
Team doctorCiaran CosgraveIRFU flag.svg  Ireland
Head of communicationPeter BreenIRFU flag.svg  Ireland
Team managerGerard CarmodyIRFU flag.svg  Ireland

Past coaches

The IRFU first appointed a coach in 1968. The current head coach is Andy Farrell, who has been in the position since 2019.

Head coaches and statistics (professional era)

Correct as of 16 March 2024 [138]
CoachSeason(s)GPWDLWin %Loss %Championships / notes
Flag of New Zealand.svg Murray Kidd [139] 1995–1997930633.3%66.7%
Flag of England.svg Brian Ashton [133] 1997–1998820625%75%
Flag of New Zealand.svg Warren Gatland [134] 1998–2001381811947.37%50%
IRFU flag.svg Eddie O'Sullivan [135] 2001–2008785002864.1%35.9% Triple Crown (2004, 2006, 2007)
IRFU flag.svg Michael Bradley [136] 200820020%100%Interim Coach
IRFU flag.svg Declan Kidney [140] 2008–2013532832252.83%41.51% 2009 Six Nations Championship (& Grand Slam); World Rugby Coach of the Year (2009)
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Les Kiss [141] 20132200100%0%Interim Coach
Flag of New Zealand.svg Joe Schmidt [142] 2013–2019765512072.37%26.32%Six Nations Championship (2014, 2015, 2018) (& Grand Slam 2018); Triple Crown (2018); World Rugby Team of the Year (2018); World Rugby Coach of the Year (2018); RTÉ Coach of the Year (2018); 1st in world rankings (Sep 2019)
Flag of England.svg Andy Farrell 2019–48390981.25%18.75%Six Nations Championship (2023, 2024) (& Grand Slam 2023); Triple Crown (2022, 2023); 1st in world rankings (July 2022–October 2023); World Rugby Coach of the Year (2023) RTÉ Coach of the Year (2023)
Total1995–present314197511262.74%35.67%

Media coverage

Ireland's end-of-year tests were broadcast by the BBC until 2013 when Sky Sports secured the rights. [143] From November 2018, the TV rights to the end-of-year matches were held by Channel 4 in the UK and RTÉ in Ireland, while TV3 Ireland and BBC/ITV retained the Six Nations rights, and ITV and TV3 with Eir Sports have the rights to the Rugby World Cup. From 2022, Amazon Prime Video holds the rights for Ireland's end-of-year internationals.

See also

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