File:Irfu logo.png
UnionIrish Rugby Football Union
Ground(s)Lansdowne Road
Coach(es)Eddie O'Sullivan
Captain(s)Brian O'Driscoll
Most capsMalcolm O'Kelly (83)
Top scorerRonan O'Gara (707)
Most triesBrian O'Driscoll (29)
Team kit
First international
England 7 - 0 Ireland
(15 February, 1875)
Largest win
United States 3 - 83 Ireland
(10 June , 2000)
Largest defeat
New Zealand 59 - 6 Ireland
(6 June, 1992)
World Cup
Appearances5 (First in 1987)
Best resultQuarter Finals, 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003

The Ireland rugby union team represents both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the rugby union; a popular sport throughout Ireland although the dominant one only in limited geographical areas.

Ireland compete annually in the Six Nations Championship (which they have won ten times outright and of which they have shared the championship eight times) and in the Rugby World Cup every four years where they have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in all but one competition. They also form a quarter of the British and Irish Lions.

Historically, Ireland have been the weakest of the rugby union of the home nations, with just a single Grand Slam to their name in 1948 and a regular recipient of the wooden spoon in the Six Nations' predecessor tournaments. However, Irish rugby union is widely acknowledged to have made the transition to professionalism more successfully than other middle-ranking rugby powers and Ireland have churned out good results, especially for a nation with a population of only five million with strong competition for players with gaelic games and soccer. They have won three triple crowns in the last 4 years. Outside centre Brian O'Driscoll regarded as one of the finest rugby players in the world. Ireland are regarded as the second best team in Europe at present, following France. Other world class players on the side include center, Gordon D'Arcy; eight, Denis Leamy; lock, Paul O'Connell; out half Ronan O'Gara and wing, Denis Hickie.

After their 2006 Autumn internationals match against Australia, Ireland climbed to third in the world on the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Rankings; a position they had not seen since the ratings began in 2003.[1] Despite remaining unbeaten in the end of year Tests, they dropped to fifth in the world rankings, before rising to fourth after their opening 2007 Six Nations victory over Wales, but have recently dropped back to fifth after the 2007 Six Nations defeat to France but bounced back in their follow up match against England with a record 43-13 victory.[1]


Early years

Caid is an ancient sport played in Ireland with strong similarities to rugby, it was played within a defined space and between a predetermined number of players. However, rugby does not seem to have evolved out of caid.

The former pupil of Rugby School RH Scott founded a club at Trinity College, Dublin in 1854. By 1867, Trinity second XV were playing matches against St. Columba’s College and Hume High Street, two Leinster schools and, importantly for the game in the north of the country, Royal School, Dungannon. Following the adoption of a set of official rules in 1868, rugby football began to spread quickly throughout Ireland.

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 the 15th February 1875. Their first home game was also against England in the same year. held at Leinster Cricket Club grounds in Rathmines as Lansdowne Road was deemed unsuitable. The first match at Lansdowne Road was held on March 11, 1878 with England beating Ireland by 2 goals and 1 try to nil.

It was not until 1881 that they first won a test, against Scotland at Ormeau in Belfast.

Ireland turned up two men short for their game in Cardiff in 1884 and had to borrow a couple of Welsh players.

The first victory Ireland had at Lansdowne Road took place on February 5th, 1887. It was also their first win over England, by two goals to nil.

On the third of March 1888, Ireland recorded their first win over Wales with a goal, a try and a drop goal to nil.

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

In the 1890s Rugby was primarily a game for the Protestant middle class, the only Catholic in Edmund Forrest’s 1894 team was Tom Crean. Of the eighteen players used in the three games, thirteen were from three Dublin clubs –Wanderers, Dublin University and Bective Rangers – and the remaining five were from Ulster.

They went on to win the Home international championship twice more before the old century was out (1896 and 1899), so that by 1900 all four of the Home Unions had tasted success at a game that was growing in popularity with players and spectators.

Twentieth century

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 March 20 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.

November 30, 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 a 8-6 defeat by England.

Post war

Ireland's finest hour arguably came in 1948 when, inspired by tactician and fly-half Jack Kyle, they beat France in Paris, England at Twickenham and a 6-0 win over Scotland at Lansdowne Road. They clinched their only Grand Slam in the Five Nations with a win against Wales at Ravenhill, Belfast. Ireland were champions and Triple Crown winners again in 1949. In 1951 were unbeaten going into their final game but failed to win the Grand Slam following a draw with Wales in Cardiff, they were, however, outright winners.

On February 27 1954, Ireland were due to play Scotland at Ravenhill in Belfast. The new Irish captain, Jim McCarthy, told IRFU president Sarsfield Hogan that the eleven Republic-based players would not stand for "God save the Queen" alongside the Scottish team. It was agreed that an abbreviated anthem, known in Ulster as "the Salute", would be played that afternoon and that the Irish team would never play again at Ravenhill. Ireland went on to beat Scotland 6-0 but would not play in Northern Ireland again until 2007.[1]

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

On April 10, 1965 Ireland recorded their first ever win over South Africa. The match, held at Lansdowne Road, was heading for a draw with the score at six points each, when Tom Kiernan won the match for Ireland with a late penalty.

Ireland beat Australia again in Dublin in 1967 and became the first of the home nations to win in the Southern Hemisphere when they beat Australia in Sydney in May 1967.

On the 26th of October 1968, Ireland made it fourth successive wins over the Wallabies with a 16-3 win at Lansdowne Road.

In 1969 they were again unbeaten going into their final game in Cardiff but Wales denied them a Grand Slam for the third time.

The 1972 Five Nations Championship was not completed when Scotland and then Wales refused to play in Ireland following threatening letters to players, purportedly from the IRA. The championship remained unresolved with Wales and Ireland unbeaten. In 1973, despite similar threats, England fulfilled their fixture and, after losing 18-9 at Lansdowne Road, the England captain, John Pullin famously remarked "We might not be very good but at least we turn up".

Ireland came close to a first win over the All Blacks on January 20, 1973 but with the score at 10-10 an Irish conversion attempt was pushed wide by a gust of wind.

Eighties and nineties

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

Three years after their last Triple Crown win, Ireland came out in 1985 and won the championship and the Triple Crown again. They beat Scotland and Wales and then played England at Lansdowne Road and won the championship in great style with an amazing last minute drop goal from Michael Kiernan. The match ended 13-10 to Ireland.

At the inaugural World Cup in 1987 Ireland went out to Australia at the quarter final stage. The team has never reached the semi-finals (yet).

During the ten tournaments played in the 90s Ireland never finished outside the bottom two. Three years running they finished bottom (1996, 1997 and 1998).

In the 1991 World Cup Ireland had appeared to be on the verge of a shock victory over Australia in the quarter final, when Michael Lynagh scored the winning try to clinch a 19-18 win for Australia. At the next world cup in 1995 Ireland again went out at the quarter final stage losing to France.

Professional era

Brian Ashton was head coach between 1997 and 1998. Ashton had been awarded a six year contract by the IRFU but resigned barely 12 months later after a series of disappointing results.

Warren Gatland took over as coach in 1998. 1999 was the first time Ireland had failed to reach the last eight at a Rugby World Cup. From this nadir, however, Irish rugby improved rapidly. With the advent of professionalism, the Irish Rugby Football Union decided to convert the four representative provincial sides into de facto club sides, with the financial capacity to retain top talent in Ireland, yet retaining strong links with amateur clubs and schools to enable young talent to be brought up through the ranks. The close geographical proximity of most of the Irish international squad helped cement relationships between the players in a way that would not have been possible had they left for English, French and Southern Hemisphere clubs. The later formation of the Celtic League cemented this strategy by ensuring that provincial sides had a regular diet of competitive rugby.

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

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

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

They then embarked on their annual tour to the southern hemisphere. There they ran New Zealand close twice before a tired Ireland were thumped by the Wallabies in Perth. They returned to their clubs before they gathered once more for the last Autumn Internationals at Lansdowne Road. The South Africans came with an experimental side with an eye on the Rugby World Cup 2007. They were also celebrating 100 years since their first tour to Europe. They wore a special kit, with a green jersey, blue shorts and blue socks, no sponsor. The Irish however taught the Springbocks a lesson beating them 32-15. Next to Lansdowne were Australia also experimenting, the weather ruined what many had tipped to be the battle of the backlines, although Geordan Murphy finished off a world class move in their 21-6 victory. That win propelled Ireland to a best ever height of 3rd in the IRB World Rankings. In the final international match at Lansdowne, Ireland thumped the Pacific Islanders 61-17,with Paddy Wallace putting in a man of the match performance with 26 points. The win completed a hat-trick of victories

Croke Park

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

Date Teams Score
11 February 2007 Template:IRLru v Template:ReverseFRAru 17 - 20
24 February 2007 Template:IRLru v Template:ReverseENGru 43 - 13

Controversy over flags and anthems

The flag of the four provinces of Ireland is the only flag used when Ireland play outside the Republic of Ireland.

The Irish rugby union team is one of a few national sporting teams on the island that draws widespread support in both "Irelands" from both nationalist and unionist communities. As Ireland represents players from different sovereign territories, there has been controversy over the flags and anthems.

When Irish internationals were played alternately in Belfast and Dublin, the British national anthem "God Save the Queen" was played for matches in Belfast and the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland "Amhrán na bhFiann" was played for matches in Dublin. No anthem was played at away games.

Since April 1995, a specially composed anthem, "Ireland's Call" has been used by the Irish team in away games.[2] This has prompted some players and supporters from the Republic to complain that "Amhrán na bhFiann" should be played.[3] At games played in Dublin "Ireland's Call" is always used alongside "Amhrán na bhFiann".[4] This use of "Amhrán na bhFiann" has caused similar complaints from players and supporters from Northern Ireland.

With Ireland's friendly game against Italy in the run up to the 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.[5]

Similarly, the Irish tricolour, the official flag of the Republic of Ireland is only flown when playing in the Republic and even then not as being representative of the team. A flag with symbols representing the four provinces of Ireland, is flown alongside the Irish tricolour in Dublin, and is used exclusively when playing elsewhere. At some matches, the standard of the island's rugby union governing body, the Irish Rugby Football Union, is displayed on the field during pre-match ceremonies.

Many supporters in the crowd at Ireland matches wave the tricolour of the Republic of Ireland, though part of Ireland is not in the Republic of Ireland. Many supporters in the crowd at Ulster games (one of the four professional Irish teams) wave Northern Ireland flags though part of Ulster is in the Republic of Ireland.

Current squad

Squad for the 2007 Six Nations Championship:



Famous past players

See also



  1. ^ a b "World Rankings Analysis". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  2. ^ "Ireland's Call". Retrieved 2007-02-08.
  3. ^ Barry, Kevin (2005-03-10). "'Ireland's Call' is the right anthem". Retrieved 2007-02-08. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ "Ireland Anthem". 2001-05-18. Retrieved 2007-02-08. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ "Rugby bosses reject unionists' anthem argument". 2006-08-21. Retrieved 2007-02-08. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)