Ireland’s Achievements In Rugby Over The Last 15 Years Are Truly Remarkable
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When it comes to rugby – no one does it quite like New Zealand. They’re the best in the world and have been for a very long time. They live and breathe the game.
For a country with a population of around 4.7 million people – it’s damn impressive. But to be fair, rugby is far and wide their number one sport, with almost 157,000 players registered across 600 clubs.
Compare that to England though – and their dominance becomes even more incredible. There are close to 2,000 clubs in England, with almost 2,000,000 registered players. Or even France, which has almost 1800 clubs and over 360,000 registered players.
But then there’s little old Ireland. A country with less players and far less clubs than any of them.
There are just 221 clubs Ireland, with around 150,000 registered players. Of those 221 clubs, just four of them are professional – the four provinces of Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht.
Compare that to the others – you’ve got 12 teams alone in the Aviva Premiership, 14 teams in France’s top division, 5 Super Rugby teams in New Zealand. And that’s not including the Championship in England, or the PRO D2 in France, or even the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand (which has 14 professional teams).
So if you look at Europe alone first and compare Ireland to the traditional ‘mega powers’ of England and France, Ireland ain’t doing so bad. Despite having a fraction of their players, clubs (both professional and non-professional) – and of course resources. Irish teams have won 6 of the last 15 European Cups (2x Munster, 4x Leinster). England meanwhile have won just four of them, with France winning the other 5.
Say what you want – but that is incredible.
Then there’s the Six Nations. Of the last 15 tournaments, Ireland have won the Championship four times – with two of them Grand Slams. They also have 5 Triple Crowns.
France have the exact same record (four wins, two of them Grand Slams), while England have just three wins, and just one Grand Slam (two Triple Crowns). Wales in fairness also have an excellent record – four wins, with three of them Grand Slams, and three Triple Crowns – but unfortunately their clubs have failed to deliver on the grand stage so we’re not going to bring them into this. (If Welsh fans are aggrieved by this then lets bring in the entire 18 seasons of Celtic Cup/League/PRO12/PRO14 wins – 11 Irish wins, 6 Welsh, 1 Scot.)
So when you look at the grand scheme of things – Ireland are the most successful country in Europe over the last 15 years when you factor in domestic and international success.
Then if you try and compare Ireland to New Zealand – they’re not doing too bad all things considered. Rugby is the national sport in New Zealand, while GAA is the national sport in Ireland. There close to 2,500 GAA clubs (and God only knows how many players) in Ireland compared to the measly 221 rugby clubs.
Yet Ireland are 2nd in the world rankings, five points behind New Zealand. They’ve only got one win over the mighty All Blacks (Chicago 2016), but if they win this summer’s series against Australia and defeat Steven Hansen’s men in November – they could very well overtake them.
When all is said and done, with just four professional teams – Ireland’s achievements in rugby over the last 15 years have been incredible.
And they’re only going to get better.