Leinster Rugby

Last updated

Leinster Rugby
LeinsterRugby logo 2019.svg
Founded1879;142 years ago (1879)
Location Dublin, Ireland
Ground(s) RDS Arena (Capacity: 18,500)
Aviva Stadium (Capacity: 51,700)
CEO Mick Dawson
Coach(es) Leo Cullen
Captain(s) Jonathan Sexton
Most caps Devin Toner (263)
Top scorer Jonathan Sexton (1,507)
Most tries Shane Horgan (69)
League(s) United Rugby Championship
2020–21 Champions
1st (Conference A)
Rainbow Cup
4th
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1st kit
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2nd kit
Official website
www.leinsterrugby.ie

Leinster Rugby (Irish : Rugbaí Laighean) is one of the four professional provincial rugby union teams from the island of Ireland and the most successful Irish team domestically. They compete in the United Rugby Championship and the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Contents

Leinster play their home games primarily at the RDS Arena, although larger games are played in the Aviva Stadium when the capacity of the RDS is insufficient. [1] Before moving to the RDS in 2005, Leinster's traditional home ground was Donnybrook Stadium, in Dublin 4. The province plays primarily in blue and the team crest features a harp within a rugby ball, the harp being taken from the flag of Leinster.

Leinster turned professional along with its fellow Irish provinces in 1995 and has competed in the United Rugby Championship (formerly known as the Celtic League, Magners League and the Pro12 / Pro14) since it was founded in 2001, having previously competed in the annual Irish interprovincial championship. [2]

History

Founding (1879–1899)

The Leinster Branch was inaugurated at a meeting on 31 October 1879. The meeting was held at Lawrence's premises 63 Grafton Street and was largely attended. Although this was the formal founding of Leinster as we know it today, with the amalgamation of the Irish Football Union and the Northern union, the Leinster provincial team had been active since 1879 – when the first interprovincial derby was played against Ulster. The Leinster and Ulster teams also made up the representative Irish team that competed against England in Ireland's first ever international in 1875. Upon the founding of the union, Munster were also added to the fray in 1879, when their first provincial team was selected and first Munster players represented Ireland. [3] [4]

F. Kennedy (Wanderers) was elected first Hon. Secretary of the Branch and C.B. Croker (Lansdowne) first Hon. Treasurer.

The function of the Branch was to organise the game of rugby football in the province. Every year five representatives would be selected to join the IRFU Committee. They would be known was the "Leinster Five" and would pick the Leinster representative teams.

The first Interprovincial matches between Leinster, Ulster and Munster were held in 1875. At this time the matches were played with 20 players a side. Leinster lost to Ulster by a converted try and beat Munster by one goal to nil. Since then there has been a match between these teams annually, with Connacht joining the fold in 1885.

Leinster Schools Interprovincial matches have been taking place since 1888. Leinster Schools beat the Ulster Schools in Belfast on Saturday 7 April by a dropped goal to a try. Their first match against Munster Schools took place on 18 March 1899, when Leinster won by two tries to one.

Amateur period (1900–1990s)

The early 1920s led to the creation of the Provincial Towns Cup and the Metropolitan Cup, which are still hard fought competitions in the Leinster Rugby calendar. Much has changed in rugby over the years, but the original idea of Leinster Club Rugby acting as a feeder for the Leinster Interprovincial side, though now professional, still stands true.

All Interprovincial matches were abandoned during the years of the Great War (1914–1918) and the War period (1939–1945), though unofficial matches were played. [5]

The first major touring side to play Leinster was a team drawn from the New Zealand Army – the Kiwis, in 1946. Although it was not an official touring side organised by the New Zealand Rugby Union, the quality of the match, which was drawn 10 points each, is still remembered to this day. [5]

The first official overseas touring side that came to play Leinster was an Australian touring side in 1957. [5] Since then, Leinster has played against every major touring side from Fiji to France. [5]

Before the days of professional rugby union, there was further emphasis on Irish club rugby as opposed to the provincial game. During these times the provincial sides were purely representative sides and games were far less frequent than now. Between 1946 and 2002 the sides would meet annually to contest the Irish Interprovincial Championship and on rare occasion would be tested against touring international sides. When rugby union was declared 'open' in 1995, these four teams became the four professional teams run by the Irish Rugby Football Union and therefore much of the history of the side has been made in the modern era.

Leo the Leinster Lion Leinster mascott.jpg
Leo the Leinster Lion

Leinster Lions (1990s–2005)

Leinster became a professional outfit in the mid-1990s. The "Leinster Lions" name came into existence during the 2001–02 season as the result of a joint marketing initiative between Leinster Rugby and its kit sponsors, the Canterbury Clothing Company. Before the start of the 2004–05 season, the 'Lions' was dropped from the name. It is still used for marketing and branding, in particular the Cubs Club for Junior members of Leinster Rugby. [6] The Leinster mascot is "Leo the Lion". It was also during this time that the song “Molly Malone” became a match fixture to be sung by the fans. [7]

Leinster's first season in the newly formed Celtic League ended in success as the Lions were crowned the inaugural champions, beating rivals Munster Rugby in the 2001–02 final. [8] In 2002–03, they became only the third team in the history of the European Cup to win all their games in pool play. They also went one step further in the playoffs than the previous season by reaching the semi-finals (for the first time since 1995–96), but lost at home against French side Perpignan, which was accompanied by an unsuccessful season in the Celtic League. The 2003–04 season also ended in disappointment as Leinster slumped to their worst ever league performance and failed to qualify from their European Cup group.

Title misses (2004–2007)

Leinster improved during the 2004–05 season, finishing 3rd, just three points behind the eventual winners, the Ospreys. [9] Leinster also won all of their pool games in that year's European Cup, and were again among the favourites for the title, however they went out at the quarter final stage to Leicester Tigers. [10]

The next two seasons of the Celtic League were to end in near misses for Leinster, as they lost out on the 2005–06 and 2006–07 league titles on the final day of the season. These seasons also saw progress in the European Cup. In 2005–06, Leinster progressed to the semi-final but were eliminated by Irish rivals Munster at Lansdowne Road and they reached the quarter-final the following year where they were beaten by eventual winners London Wasps.

European and domestic dominance (2008–2014)

Increasing attendances at Leinster games led to a move across Dublin 4 from Donnybrook Stadium to the redeveloped RDS Arena.

In 2007–08, Leinster failed to qualify from their European Cup pool, but did end the season as Celtic League champions, sealing the title with a 41–8 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons in front of their home fans at the RDS. [11]

In the 2008–09 season, Leinster topped their European Cup pool despite away losses to French side Castres and English side Wasps. [12] Victory over Harlequins in the quarter-finals followed, despite the Bloodgate Scandal. Leinster overcame Munster 25–6 in a semi-final in Dublin's Croke Park that broke the world record attendance for a "club" rugby union game with a crowd of over 82,200. [13] Leinster won the 2009 European Cup Final in Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, beating Leicester Tigers 19–16 to claim their first European crown. [14]

The RDS Arena before the 2010 Celtic League Final Magners Cup final Coming on the field2.jpg
The RDS Arena before the 2010 Celtic League Final

In 2009–10 Leinster was eliminated from the European Cup at the semi-final stage by eventual winners Toulouse. Also despite having topped the Pro12 league during the regular season, Leinster lost the first ever Play-off Final 17–12 on their home ground to the Ospreys. [15]

In the 2010–11 European Cup, Leinster defeated the top English teams (Leicester Tigers, Saracens & Northampton Saints), as well as top French sides, Toulouse (who were the defending European champions), Racing Metro & Clermont Auvergne, (the French Champions). [16] to go on to regain their title as champions of Europe in the 2011 European Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Trailing at half time, Leinster scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to beat Northampton 33–22 and claim their second European crown with the biggest comeback in European Cup final history. [17] [18] Leinster were also chasing a Pro12 & European Cup double, but lost 19–9 to Irish rivals Munster in the Pro12 Final. [19]

In 2011–12 Leinster became only the second side ever to retain the title of European Champions. Leinster emerged unbeaten in group play to top their group [20] and went on to defeat the Cardiff Blues 34–3 in the quarterfinals, [21] followed by a 19–15 semifinal victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne. [22] and defeated Ulster in the first all-Irish final 42–14, recording the most points scored and the most tries scored in a European Cup final as well as becoming the first unbeaten side to win the European Cup. [23] Once again, Leinster targeted the double, and faced a repeat of the 2010 Pro12 final against the Ospreys. Leinster's domestic title challenge fell at the final hurdle, conceding a final minute try to slump to a one-point defeat, and unable to complete the double despite topping the table in the regular season. [24]

The 2012–13 campaign proved to be another successful season for Leinster Rugby. The club finished in second place during the regular season of the Pro12 and defeated Glasgow Warriors by a score of 17–15 in their semi-final play-off match on 11 May 2013. [25] On 17 May, Leinster were crowned champions of the European Challenge Cup after defeating Stade Français 34–13 in the final at their home ground, the RDS Arena. [26] Leinster successfully completed the double on 25 May, defeating Ulster 24–18 in the Pro12 final to claim their third league championship. [27] [28]

Leinster continued their success in the 2013–14 season by becoming the first team ever to defend the Pro12 title, topping the league in the regular season and defeating Glasgow Warriors 34–12 in their fifth consecutive Pro12 play-off final and also secured their seventh major title in as many years. [29]

Blooding a new generation (2015–2017)

Following a remarkable run of seven major trophies in seven years, Leinsters title run came to an end following the 2013–14 season. The 2014–15 season saw a dip in form, with Leinster finishing in fifth place in the league and failing to make the play-offs. Fortunes in the newly formed Champions Cup were better, with the team reaching the semi-final where they were defeated in extra-time by eventual winners, Toulon. At the end of the season, Head Coach, Matt O'Connor, left the club by mutual consent with former club captain, Leo Cullen, being named as his replacement. Cullen then brought in ex-England coach Stuart Lancaster as senior coach at the start of the 2016–17 season, which saw a huge improvement from Leinster as well a big group of young players coming through. Despite playing brilliant rugby all season, Leinster failed to win any silverware, falling short in the Champions Cup semi-final to old rivals Clermont and shocked by the Scarlets in the Pro12 Semi-Final at the RDS. However, there was huge optimism amongst the players and supporters as they believed this was only the start of new generation and perhaps another era of success.

Return to success (2018–present)

Previous Season Summaries

Domestic LeagueEuropean CupDomestic / 'A' Cup
SeasonCompetitionFinal Position (Pool)PointsPlay-OffsCompetitionPerformanceCompetitionPerformance
1995–96No competition Heineken Cup Semi-final Interprovincial Championship Champions
1996–97No competition Heineken Cup 3rd in pool Interprovincial Championship 2nd
1997–98No competition Heineken Cup 3rd in pool Interprovincial Championship Champions
1998–99No competition Heineken Cup 4th in pool Interprovincial Championship 3rd
1999–00No competition Heineken Cup 2nd in pool Interprovincial Championship 3rd
2000–01No competition Heineken Cup 2nd in pool Interprovincial Championship 3rd
2001–02 Celtic League 1st (A)21Champions Heineken Cup Quarter-final Interprovincial Championship Champions
2002–03 Celtic League 5th (B)18Did Not qualify Heineken Cup Semi-finalNo competition
2003–04 Celtic League 8th47N/A Heineken Cup 2nd in pool Celtic Cup Quarter-final
2004–05 Celtic League 3rd57N/A Heineken Cup Quarter-final Celtic Cup Semi-final
2005–06 Celtic League 2nd74N/A Heineken Cup Semi-finalNo competition
2006–07 Magners League 3rd61N/A Heineken Cup Quarter-finalNo competition
2007–08 Magners League 1st61N/A Heineken Cup 3rd in poolNo competition
2008–09 Magners League 3rd52N/A Heineken Cup ChampionsNo competition
2009–10 Magners League 1st55Runner-up Heineken Cup Semi-final British and Irish Cup 2nd in pool
2010–11 Magners League 2nd70Runner-up Heineken Cup Champions British and Irish Cup Quarter-final
2011–12 RaboDirect PRO12 1st81Runner-up Heineken Cup Champions British and Irish Cup Semi-final
2012–13 RaboDirect PRO12 2nd78Champions Challenge Cup *Champions British and Irish Cup Champions
2013–14 RaboDirect PRO12 1st82Champions Heineken Cup Quarter-final British and Irish Cup Champions
2014–15 Guinness PRO12 5th62Did Not qualify Champions Cup Semi-final British and Irish Cup Semi-final
2015–16 Guinness PRO12 1st73Runner-up Champions Cup 4th in pool British and Irish Cup Quarter-final
2016–17 Guinness PRO12 2nd85Semi-Final Champions Cup Semi-final British and Irish Cup 2nd in pool
2017–18 Guinness PRO14 1st (B)70Champions Champions Cup Champions British and Irish Cup Runner-up
2018–19 Guinness PRO14 1st (B)76Champions Champions Cup Runner-up Celtic Cup Champions
2019–20 Guinness PRO14 1st (A)69Champions Champions Cup Quarter-final Celtic Cup Champions
2020–21 Guinness PRO14 1st (A)71Champions Champions Cup Semi-final Rainbow Cup 4th in pool

Gold background denotes champions
Silver background denotes runner-up

* After dropping into the competition from the Champions Cup/Heineken Cup

Heineken Cup / Champions Cup

Challenge Cup

United Rugby Championship

Current standings

United Rugby Championship

2021–22 United Rugby Championship watch · edit · discuss
TeamPWDLPFPAPDTFTATry bonusLosing bonusPts
1 Flag of Italy.svg Benetton 000000+000000
2 Flag of South Africa.svg Bulls 000000+000000
3 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff 000000+000000
4 IRFU flag.svg Connacht 000000+000000
5 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons 000000+000000
6 Flag of Scotland.svg Edinburgh 000000+000000
7 Flag of Scotland.svg Glasgow Warriors 000000+000000
8 IRFU flag.svg Leinster 000000+000000
9 Flag of South Africa.svg Lions 000000+000000
10 IRFU flag.svg Munster 000000+000000
11 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys 000000+000000
12 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets 000000+000000
13 Flag of South Africa.svg Sharks 000000+000000
14 Flag of South Africa.svg Stormers 000000+000000
15 IRFU flag.svg Ulster 000000+000000
16 Flag of Italy.svg Zebre 000000+000000
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order: [31]
  1. number of matches won;
  2. the difference between points for and points against;
  3. the number of tries scored;
  4. the most points scored;
  5. the difference between tries for and tries against;
  6. the fewest red cards received;
  7. the fewest yellow cards received.
Green background indicates teams that are playoff places that top their regional pools and earn a place in the 2022–23 European Champions Cup

Blue background indicates teams that did not top their regional pool but are play-off places and earn a place in the 2022–23 European Champions Cup
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the 2022–23 European Rugby Challenge Cup.

    2021–22 United Rugby Championship Regional Pools view · watch · edit · discuss
    Irish Pool
    TeamPWDLPFPAPDTFTATBPLBPPts
    1 IRFU flag.svg Connacht 000000+000000
    2 IRFU flag.svg Leinster 000000+000000
    3 IRFU flag.svg Munster 000000+000000
    4 IRFU flag.svg Ulster 000000+000000
    Italian and Scottish Pool
    TeamPWDLPFPAPDTFTATBPLBPPts
    1 Flag of Italy.svg Benetton 000000000000
    2 Flag of Scotland.svg Edinburgh 000000000000
    3 Flag of Scotland.svg Glasgow Warriors 000000000000
    4 Flag of Italy.svg Zebre 000000000000
    South African Pool
    TeamPWDLPFPAPDTFTATBPLBPPts
    1 Flag of South Africa.svg Bulls 000000000000
    2 Flag of South Africa.svg Lions 000000000000
    3 Flag of South Africa.svg Sharks 000000000000
    4 Flag of South Africa.svg Stormers 000000000000
    Welsh Pool
    TeamPWDLPFPAPDTFTATBPLBPPts
    1 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff 000000000000
    2 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons 000000000000
    3 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys 000000000000
    4 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets 000000000000
    If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order: [32]
    1. number of matches won
    2. the difference between points for and points against
    3. the number of tries scored
    4. the most points scored
    5. the difference between tries for and tries against
    6. the fewest red cards received
    7. the fewest yellow cards received
    Green background indicates teams guaranteed a place in the 2022–23 European Champions Cup

      European Rugby Champions Cup

      Pool A

      Team
      PWDLPFPADiffTFTATBLBPts
      IRFU flag.svg Leinster 22007033+37942010
      Flag of England.svg Wasps 22005722+35932010
      Flag of France.svg Bordeaux Bègles 22006320+4381109
      Flag of France.svg La Rochelle 2200418+3361109
      Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets 22005119+3262109
      Flag of Scotland.svg Edinburgh 21012428-424015
      Flag of France.svg Toulon 21012642-1626004
      Flag of England.svg Sale Sharks 20022942-1343011
      Flag of England.svg Northampton Saints 20023151-2035011
      Flag of England.svg Bath 20021951-3226011
      Flag of France.svg Montpellier 20022868-40310000
      Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons 20021671-55211000

      [33]

      Honours