The Ireland team from their Rugby World Cup 2019 opener compared to 2023

Four years later.

Ireland get their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign underway this weekend against Romania and head into rugby’s showpiece event with arguably the strongest squad they have ever assembled.

Four years ago under Joe Schmidt, Ireland headed to Japan with confidence, but a disappointing warm-up campaign carried through to the tournament itself, where they lost to the hosts in the pool stages, before ultimately being dumped out by New Zealand in the quarter finals.

This time round they’re heading into the tournament in excellent form, recording their first ever series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand, winning a Grand Slam back in March, before recording a clean sweep in the warm-ups to cement their place at the top of the World Rugby Rankings.

But how different are the teams from the opening game against Scotland in 2019, compared to this weekend’s 2023 opener against Romania? Let’s have a look at the 2019 game first.

IRELAND vs Scotland 2019

15. J Larmour
14. A Conway
13. G Ringrose
12. B Aki
11. J Stockdale
10. J Sexton
9. C Murray

1. C Healy
2. R Best (c)
3. T Furlong
4. J Ryan
5. I Henderson
6. P O’Mahony
7. J van der Flier
8. CJ Stander


16. N Scannell
17. D Kilcoyne
18. A Porter
19. T Beirne
20, J Conan
21. L McGrath
22. J Carty
23. C Farrell

The 2019 team managed to get off to a winning start against Scotland, defeating Gregor Townsend’s side 27-3. But a number of those players are not in the 2023 squad for a variety of reasons. The likes of Rory Best and CJ Stander are now retired, Jordan Larmour has been completlely frozen out and starts for Leinster tomorrow, while Cian Healy picked up an injury in Ireland’s final warm-up game against Samoa to miss out on the 2023 squad.

Interestingly, 11 of the 23 are involved in both squads, but the upgrades Ireland have made for 2023 are quite substantial.

Caelan Doris and Hugo Keenan are two of the best in the world in their respective positions, James Lowe has been incredible in a green shirt since his debut shortly after the 2019 World Cup, while there’s also the likes of Mack Hansen, Dan Sheehan and Robbie Henshaw to come back into the squad for Tonga next week.

IRELAND vs Romania 2023

15. H Keenan
14. K Earls
13. G Ringrose
12. B Aki
11. J Lowe
10. J Sexton (c)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. A Porter
2. R Herring
3. T Furlong
4. J McCarthy
5. J Ryan
6. T Beirne
7. P O’Mahony
8. C Doris


16. R Kelleher
17. J Loughman
18. T O’Toole
19. I Henderson
20. J van der Flier
21. C Murray
22. J Crowley
23. R Henshaw

Overall, you’d certainly fancy the 2023 team to defeat the 2019 line-up – but are they good enough to go all the way? Only time will tell.

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