It’s been an amazing decade in Irish rugby and there are some massive calls in making a team over the past ten years, but we have come to make our starting XV.
There have been three Six Nations triumphs, with a Grand Slam coming in 2018 and while the team could not make it past the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, they did manage to not only get a historic first win over the All Blacks, but followed it up with a second on home soil.
It’s incredible to think about how far the side has come, and as we head into a new decade and a new era under head coach Andy Farrell, here is a quick look back at the best XV for the last decade.
Full-Back: Rob Kearney
An easy decision! Kearney has been a mainstay in the Ireland set-up for pretty much the entire decade. He started the decade as a hard-running, powerful 15, and has adapted his game recently as age begins to show. At 33, he was left out of Ireland’s recent “stocktake” but don’t be surprised to see him add to his 95 international caps. His quality in the air is sensational and he still has a lot to offer.
Right-Wing: Tommy Bowe
He went into the decade on the back of helping Ireland to a historic Grand Slam in 2009 and carried through his fine form into the decade. Although injury hampered him Bowe managed to score an amazing 150-points in just 69 appearances for the men in green. His biggest moments might have come before the start of the decade, but nobody can really rival him for the number 14 jersey over the past 10 years.
Outside-Centre: Brian O’Driscoll
Seen by many as Ireland’s greatest player ever and by some as the greatest player to have play the game making it impossible to leave him out of the team. He may have lost some of his speed around the pitch in his later years, but he always seemed to put in a performance when in the Irish jersey. His in-game intelligence and leadership on the pitch saw him help Ireland to their 2014 Six Nations win and cement his legacy as the best around.
Inside-Centre: Gordon D’Arcy
Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki were close contenders, but O’Driscoll’s centre partner gets the nod as he just made Ireland click. His defensive abilities along with the spark he had in attack made him one of the best in his position.
Left-Wing: Keith Earls
The Munster man has gone on to become one of Ireland’s mainstays since his debut in 2008, racking up 82-caps and scoring 30 tries in that time. Some may put in Jacob Stockdale ahead of him, but Earls’ consistency in the 10-years gets him a spot in our team.
Out-Half: Johnny Sexton
The only man that could be named here, Sexton has been incredible throughout the decade and was recognised by winning World Rugby Player of the Year in 2018. His importance to the team has been there for all to see when he has been absent in the line-up and could be named as captain by Farrell as we head into the Six Nations as he is what makes Ireland tick.
Scrum-Half: Conor Murray
Having made his debut in 2011 Murray has been the first-choice No 9 ever-since and has come up with some vital tries over that time as well as stepping in as a place-kicker upon occasion. He hasn’t been in top form recently and could lose his starting spot heading into the next decade, but during the 10’s he was No 1.
Loosehead Prop: Cian Healy
Arguably the best in his position worldwide at times in the past 10-years, Healy’s physicality and ability on the ball has seen him dominate in open and set-play. He has rebuilt himself following serious injuries and has fought back to become Ireland’s first-choice once again and at 32 he could still have a big part to play in the foreseeable future.
Hooker: Rory Best
With 124-caps to his name Best has been ever-present this century before calling time on his rugby career earlier this year. He captained the side upon many occasions and was the ultimate leader and gentleman both on and off the pitch. He was asked to continue playing at club-level by many clubs, but decided he had done his fair share and who could argue with the Irish great.
Tighthead Prop: Tadhg Furlong
Despite not being in the team for a large part of the decade, since he has been in the Irish fold he has been incredible. His handling skills for such a big man are just amazing and he has gone on to become arguably the best tighthead in the world. With 41-caps to his name already, there is no doubt that Furlong will ease past the 50-cap make soon enough and at 27, who knows how far he can go if he stays at the top of his game.
Lock: Devin Toner
It was a toss-up between Toner and James Ryan, but for this decade Toner gets into our team. Ryan has been immense since his arrival on the international scene and nailed on to become a future Irish captain, but Toner has been crucial to Ireland for large parts of the decade. His importance to the team was there for all to see during the World Cup when he wasn’t selected, but he has since gone on to be recalled following some brilliant performances for Leinster.
Lock: Paul O’Connell
The ultimate leader! Despite retiring in 2015 O’Connell just has to be in this team as he was crucial to helping Ireland become the dominant force they are today. Deserved a better send off than he got after being forced to retire due to injury, but will always go down as one of the greats.
Blindside-Flanker: Peter O’Mahony
Ever-present in the Irish set-up since his debut in 2012 and a contender for the captaincy under Farrell. He has already captained his country as well as Munster and the British and Irish Lions and is one of the best defensive players in the game. A constant threat at the breakdown, O’Mahony will hope to add to his 64-caps to date come the new year.
Openside-Flanker: Sean O’Brien
One of the most destructive players the game has ever seen, but was simply unfortunate with injury which meant he was unable to cement a place as an Irish legend, but he deserves a place in this team. When he wasn’t injured O’Brien could beat even the best and showed that during the 2017 Lions Tour.
Number 8: Jamie Heaslip
CJ Stander has a case to be included, but Heaslip gets in ahead of him due to his sheer brilliance while in the squad. He was able in both attack and defence and a fan favourite, making 95 appearances for the Irish team. He was a forward that had a spark to him that made him stand-out and would walk into most teams when in top-form.
Wales to Face Japan in the Summer
Wales have confirmed that they will play Japan in the summer along with their clashes with the All Blacks
Wales have announced that they will take on Japan in the far east this summer with the venue to be confirmed in due course.
It will be Wales’ first time back to Japan since their Rugby World Cup campaign last year, where they went on to finish fourth following a semi-final loss to eventual winners South Africa and another loss to the All Blacks in the third-place play-off.
The match will take place on June 27th, ahead of the team’s trip to New Zealand where they will play two tests against the mighty All Blacks and head coach Wayne Pivac is looking forward to the recent World Cup hosts.
“Going back to Japan for Wales will be a really big fixture on the back of a really successful Rugby World Cup for Japan as hosts both on and off the field. The squad and Welsh Rugby Union made a huge impression on the country in the lead up to and during the World Cup and attracted a lot of local support so it will be great to take the squad back to Japan for the first summer test,” he said.
Wales’ neighbours England are also set for a return to Japan in the summer, with Eddie Jones’ side set for a two-test series against the Brave Blossoms.
It is a huge boost for the Japanese team, who will now get to face some top-tier nations following their incredible World Cup displays and will now have the chance to continue their progression at the top-level of the game.
Huge Relief for Jones Ahead of Six Nations
Eddie Jones will be a relieved man with one of his key men set to return from injury this weekend
The England star left the field of play in the 65th minute of that match and the worst was feared as medical staff helped him come off.
It is a massive boost for Jones, who lost his star early in the Rugby World Cup final last year due to concussion and would have been worried that he would once again be without him for the country’s Six Nations opening game against France on February 2nd.
If he can stay fit between now and then Sinckler appears to be nailed on for a starting role in what will be the team’s first game since their World Cup loss to South Africa.
Cruden Not Thinking About All Blacks
With Aaron Cruden set for his return to Super Rugby action in the coming weeks many have questioned whether he may return to the All Blacks fold, but the player himself is not concerned with all the talk
The 31-year-old, who is returning to New Zealand following a two-year stint in France with Montpellier, has excited fans with his return and they are now wondering if he may get another chance to play for the All Blacks.
Before his departure to France Cruden picked up 50 caps for his country, but has failed to add to that due to his move abroad. However, his return goes hand in hand with change in the All Blacks set-up as Ian Foster begins his reign as head coach.
Entering a new era in All Blacks history could mean that a slot could open up for Cruden to put his hand up for selection if he can hit the ground running for the Chiefs, with Beauden Barrett’s position in the team still up for debate with many preferring him as a full-back.
Meanwhile, Richie Mo’unga is a natural No 10, but some appear to have question marks over his place in the team.
However, despite all the talk as to the possibility of his return to the national side Cruden insists he isn’t thinking about anything other than the task at hand with the Chiefs.
“I just want to contribute to each environment I’m in and haven’t thought too much about the All Blacks. I’ve been removed from that environment for a few seasons and there have been a lot of changes in that scene as well,” he said while speaking to the media.
A stumbling block in fans hope for his return to the national fold is that he is set to leave the Chiefs after just one season and head to Japan where he will play for the Kobelco Steelers, meaning he may not be a long-term option and therefore not come into Foster’s thoughts.
Whatever happens on the national scene Cruden’s return to the franchise where he won two Super Rugby titles in his first stint sees him link up with new head coach Warren Gatland and he was full of praise for the former Wales head coach.
“His pedigree speaks for itself, you can see what he’s been able to do with the Welsh national side. He’s obviously a passionate Waikato/Chiefs man and having him back in the region will do wonders for this team. He’s brought his own style and structure to training and, talking to a lot of the boys they are really energised. It’s a lot more player-driven with coaches there to provide guidance and a bit of structure, giving the players the allowance and energy to bring things to life which is awesome,” he added.
Although unlikely the talk of Cruden’s possible comeback in an All Blacks jersey will not go away any time soon and if he can impress this season who knows what might happen.
For now he has his sights on the Chiefs and with their season opener against the Blues fast approaching Cruden will hope to help him and Gatland get off to the perfect start on their return to New Zealand.
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