The Greatest Ireland XV Of The Professional Era

This is a tough one.

Irish Rugby has gone from strength to strength since the dawn of the professional era.

From battling to avoid the Wooden Spoon, and European heartbreak at provincial level to Grand Slams and multiple European crowns – Ireland have defied the odds to become one of rugby’s elite rugby nations.

In that time they have produced some truly world class players. Captains, Lions, legends – From Keith Wood to Robbie Henshaw, Paul O’Connell to Keith Earls – Ireland’s players have had a huge influence on the game.

But what would an ultimate professional era XV look like? It’s a tough one and will no doubt divide opinion  – but we’ve decided to have a crack at it anyway.

First up  – the backline. A few big calls to be made here. We’ve gone with Robbie Henshaw over Gordon D’Arcy – a big call but the 24-year-old is a better all-round centre, and would absolutely tear it up with O’Driscoll in his prime outside him.

Keith Earls also gets the nod over Dennis Hickie and Shane Horgan, while the biggest call of them all is O’Gara over Sexton. O’Gara is still the all-time highest points scorer for Ireland and is the fourth highest points scorer in the history of international rugby. It’s a toss up – but we’ve gone with the placekicking machine.

The pack is a lot easier to pick. John Hayes misses out simply because you just cannot overlook Tadhg Furlong. He’s a different breed and has redefined the role of a modern day tighthead. The rest of the spots pretty much pick themselves – although there were some close calls in the back-row, with guys like Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien missing out.

Have a look at our full team below and let us know if you would make any changes. Remember – it’s just a bit of fun. We’re all gonna have different opinions on the selection.

Greatest Ireland XV of the Professional Era.

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Brian O’Driscoll
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Tommy Bowe
10. Ronan O’Gara
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Keith Wood
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Donncha O’Callaghan
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Stephen Ferris
7. David Wallace
8. Jamie Heaslip