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After Jack Kyle’s recent death, the world of rugby is in a time of mourning. Universally considered one of the best fly-halfs in history and voted the greatest ever Irish player back in 2002, the man who won Ireland its first Grand Slam title is no longer with us. But as the best possible tribute to his legacy, the Irish international team is looking again towards a brighter future. They may not express their feelings in public, because this is a notoriously unpredictable game, but in rugby, even the impossible can occur. There is a sense of optimism in the air thanks to the great spell that Joe Schmidt’s side have enjoyed recently. It all started with a magnificent performance against the head coach’s home country, New Zealand, with Ireland just failing to maintain their lead only in the dying minutes of the game.
But the icing on the cake came with the Six Nations. After only one loss during the entire tournament, against England at Twickenham, Ireland managed to bring the trophy home thanks to a heroic performance at the Stade de France on the final day of the competition. After that, things couldn’t have been better. Although the retirement of two key players such as Brian O’Driscoll and Stephen Ferris was a hard blow to the team, the recent test matches after their departure were nothing short of impressive, proving that the Aviva stadium in Dublin has become a real fortress all year round. Beating South Africa with what BOD (Brian O’Driscoll) himself regarded as an “exceptional performance” was just the beginning. After battering and bruising Georgia, the Irish squad met a fierce Australian side that took the battle to their ground. But thanks to two successive tries and the hard work of the forwards- special mention must go to the captain Paul O’Connell, who put his body on the line to maintain his side’s slender advantage – and a 3 point margin was enough to secure the victory.
Rob Kearney’s fantastic drop goal attempt against Australia.
Ireland are now third in the world rankings of rugby, but they are in seventh rugby heaven. So what will 2015 bring? Even though the next edition of the Six Nations will be starting soon, both the southern and northern hemispheres are concentrating on the main event that will take place in September. The mother of all rugby competitions: The Rugby World Cup. After their good start under Declan Kidney in 2011, devastation followed when the team lost 22-10 to Wales, shattering in the process so many dreams of reaching a semi-final for the first time in history.
But now the boys in green look like they’ve really pushed their game up a notch, with key players like Paul O’Connell, Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton and Tommy Bowe in fine form. Newcomers like the New Zealander Jared Payne and the young Stuart Olding from Belfast have already proved their worth at Ulster, and can bring renewed energy to the squad. As well as that, the return of injured players such as Andrew Trimble, Cian Healy and Chris Henry (to whom everyone wishes a speedy recovery after his successful operation) might just complete a serious looking Irish side. Through mauls, offloads, penalties and pick and go’s, Ireland are aiming to make it all the way through the challenges that lie ahead. Shoulder to shoulder. Jack Kyle would have been proud.