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.
Paul O’Connell Joins Ireland Coaching Group
Former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell has joined the Ireland national coaching group as forwards coach with Simon Easterby to focus on defence.
Paul was capped 108 times by Ireland and captained the team to Six Nations success in 2014. O’Connell’s distinguished playing career also included seven Test match appearances for the British & Ireland Lions across three tours and two Heineken Cup titles with Munster.
Since retiring from playing in 2015, Paul has held coaching positions with the Munster Academy, Ireland Under-20s and Top 14 side Stade Francais.
“I am really looking forward to working with Andy and the rest of the coaching group. I worked with Simon as a player and am looking forward to working with him again. It’s an exciting young group of players to be involved with and there are talented forwards coming through across the four provinces that will no doubt be pushing for international selection in the coming months and years.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell commented:
“Paul brings a wealth of rugby knowledge with him and as forwards coach he will have responsibility for the forwards including the line-out working alongside John (Fogarty). He will also be another strong voice and leader within the group.
“Simon (Easterby) has a real passion for defence and having developed Ireland’s forward play over the past six years with the additional responsibility for the defence over the past 12 months, he will now be able to focus his energy and rugby intellect on this area of our game.
“The weekend’s Interpro games and the European fixtures in the weeks ahead will give players the opportunity to push for selection for the Six Nations squad. The squad will not be selected until after the Champions Cup Round 4 fixtures have been completed.”
IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented: “Paul is a young Irish coach with a huge amount of international rugby experience. We have been keen to find the right opportunity for him within Irish Rugby and we think the fit with the national squad will work well. He joins the national coaching group with immediate effect as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.”
All Blacks announce new Captain
All Blacks Press Release:
All Blacks loose forward and Chiefs Captain Sam Cane has been named as the new Captain of the All Blacks.
The news was announced on SKY Sport’s The Breakdown show tonight, with Cane succeeding Kieran Read who retired from the All Blacks after Rugby World Cup 2019.
A natural leader, 28-year-old Cane has played 68 Tests, including 48 starts, since making his debut against Ireland in 2012, aged just 20.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said he was delighted to name Cane as the new captain.
“Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.
“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.”
Foster said while the All Blacks’ plans for this year were still being worked through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an important role for the captain.
“We wanted to confirm Sam now because he’ll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders,” Foster said.
Cane said it was a “massive honour” to be given the captaincy.
“It’s a pretty exciting challenge really and as I’ve spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team.
“The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I’m just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.”
Cane has already captained the All Blacks on three occasions. He became the 67th Test captain and fifth youngest ever when he captained the team against Namibia at RWC2015 at the age of 23. He also captained the team against Italy in 2016 and against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year.
“My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I’m just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue,” Cane added.
“While we don’t know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I’m looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans.”
Mini biography – Sam Cane
Raised in the small rural Bay of Plenty community of Reporoa, Sam Cane has had an exceptional career since breaking into professional rugby as a teenager. He made his provincial debut for Bay of Plenty in 2010 at just 18 years old and his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs the following year. In 2011, Cane was also part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side, was the New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year and was also nominated for International Age Grade Player award. He helped the Chiefs to the first of their back-to-back Investec Super Rugby titles in 2012 before making his All Blacks debut in June that year aged 20. A devastating tackler and scavenger, he has continued to take his game to new levels in recent seasons. He was co-Captain of the Chiefs for four years taking sole charge this year and has played 116 games for the club. In 2018 Cane fractured his neck during a Test against South Africa and faced months of recovery post-surgery before making a much-anticipated return to the Chiefs in 2019, helping the team through to the Quarter Finals. A Rugby World Cup 2015 champion with the All Blacks, Cane was also part of the RWC2019 squad.
Samuel Jordan Cane
Born: 13 January 1992 in Rotorua
Physical: 1.89m, 106kg
Position: Loose forward
Province: Bay of Plenty
Investec Super Rugby team: Chiefs
Investec Super Rugby appearances: 116
All Blacks Debut: 16 June 2012, vs Ireland in Christchurch, aged 20.
All Blacks Tests: 68 (Three as Captain)
All Blacks Test Points: 65pts (13 tries)
All Black Number: 1113
Rugby Australia Make Significant Cuts
Following the coronavirus pandemic rugby has been hit hard with no way of playing games and now Rugby Australia have been forced into making cuts in order to retain staff in the long-run
Rugby Australia have confirmed that they will be standing down 75% of their staff in a bid to combat the growing struggles that the coronavirus pandemic is causing.
The workers will be released from tomorrow until the 30th of June due to the lack of finances available to Rugby Australia with the Super Rugby season currently on hold and a strong possibility of the Wallabies summer tests being called off.
In the worst case possible the organisation are predicting a loss of $120 million due to the virus and speaking on the latest developments the organisation’s chief executive Raelane Castle admitted this was the toughest decision she and her colleagues had ever had to make.
“Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hard-working and passionate staff, that many of them will be stood down for a three-month period so that the game can survive this unprecedented crisis. Since the suspension of our proposed domestic Super Rugby competition, we have been working to understand both the immediate and long-term financial implications for the game as a result of the suspension of the competition, and potential further loss of revenue-generating content as we look ahead to the international season. Our extensive modelling shows that as a code, we could lose up to $120 million in revenue should it not be possible for any rugby to be played in 2020. Of course, that is the worst case scenario, and we are very hopeful that we can recommence the Super Rugby season and domestic Wallabies test matches at some point this year. The measures we will implement from April 1, although extremely painful, are necessary to ensure the sport remains financially viable and to ensure that we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully-operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild. It is our priority to keep all of our valued team connected and engaged through this period,” she said.
Castle’s has already taken a 50% pay cut since the crisis began and the rest of Rugby Australia’s executives will have a 30% reduction in pay.
It is a tough call to make in order to preserve rugby in Australia and the fear is that things may get worse with a fear that not all four of the country’s Super Rugby franchises will make it through to next season due to the financial losses.
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