Top Of The Class: Who Are The Best Rugby Players In Ireland Right Now?
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Best in the country.
Having a relatively modest population when compared to the bigger rugby nations, such as France and England, has not stopped Ireland from producing some incredible talent when it comes to rugby players.
Despite the fact that the era of Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell is long gone, this has not meant that a talent vacuum has been created on the Irish team. In fact, since the departure of these two giants of the game – in the case of Paul O’Connell, this is quite literally true – the many up-and-coming Irish players beginning to establish their names signals a bright future for Irish rugby.
But for those of us looking to indulge in some rugby betting between friends, who are the current cream of the crop when it comes to Irish rugby?
And particularly with a view to this year’s Six Nations, who looks set to be a safe bet in the tournament?
Seemingly defying conventional logic and getting better with age, Johnny Sexton is a player who, much like Brian O’Driscoll, looks set to enter the hall of fame before his playing career has even finished.
Sexton is an indispensable tactical player who makes a discernible difference to the Irish team whenever he sets foot on the pitch. By combining an ability to attack, call big plays and to adapt and defend wherever and whenever necessary, Sexton is a truly invaluable player on the Irish bench. Following an illustrious career playing for Ireland, the Lions and Leinster, Sexton’s name will undoubtedly be etched on the hallowed halls of the Irish Rugby Hall of Fame before too long.
Conor Murray is another player who, much like Sexton, can make a legitimate claim to being one of the best in the world in his position. Appreciated by a certain demographic of fans for his cool demeanour and good looks, Murray is known on the pitch for his consistently strong performances and an ability to get the job done under heavy pressure. After putting on stellar performances at both Munster in the Champions Cup and for Ireland in the Six Nations, Murray has proved to be not only indispensable to the Irish squad but a stand-out performer all round.
Leinster native James Ryan is one of the new crop of Irish rugby talent that exemplifies why the future looks so bright for Irish rugby. At just 24 years of age, James Ryan has put together one of the most impressive resumes in Irish rugby. Following an illustrious playing career at Blackrock, UCD, Leinster and Ireland, Ryan looks set to be a staple of the Irish squad for many years to come.
Despite some early setbacks with injuries, Ryan has managed to fight his way back into top playing form and has been putting in consistently good performances. Particularly in the Six Nations and the Champion’s Cup, Ryan has proved a consistent, reliable team member who manages to be present just when he is needed.
As another one of the Ireland team’s key players from the new generation, Stockdale has, much like Ryan, built up an impressive playing career at a young age. After an incredibly impressive series of outings for the Irish under-20s team in the 2015 and 2016 championships, Stockdale got the call-up to the men’s squad just a year later in May 2017, when he was picked for the 2017 Summer Tour squad.
He made his first appearance as a senior player in June 2017, when he put in an impressive debut for Ireland in a one-off test match against the United States team – which resulted in a 55-19 victory. His first home game was similarly successful, with Stockdale scoring a magnificent try against South Africa in November 2017. A mere two weeks later, he won the Man of the Match award against Argentina, where he scored two tries, securing an Irish victory in the process.
Since this break-out start in the senior leagues, Stockdale has established himself as a permanent fixture in the senior Irish squad. Perhaps most importantly, he scored a try in the epic match that saw Ireland secure their first victory against the All Blacks on Irish soil, in November 2018.
This illustrious list of achievements in such a short time has generated a huge amount of interest, with many predicting that Stockdale will become one of the key players in Ireland’s upcoming games. With a total of 18 international tries already under his belt, the future looks very bright for him.