Both the Ireland Men’s and Women’s games were similar in a lot of ways on the pitch, while the games were played under different circumstances. The men’s team were coming into this Six Nations after an extremely disappointing year, and under new management. Mistakes were to be expected, but the hope was that there would be some kind of plan. As for the women, they were 2 and a half years on from a disappointing World Cup, and the patience for being in a transitional period had worn off.
Despite these differences the matches were similar. Ireland did enough in both cases without setting the world on fire. On another day, or with another 10 minutes, Scotland could have won. But a win is a win is a win.
Starting with the men’s game, last week on the show we were hopeful there would be a semblance of an idea. And largely there was. Ireland tried a few new things. It was never going to work perfectly, and it didn’t. Had Stuart Hogg not made a horrendous blunder, or had Scotland been more clinical, we could all be a lot more pessimistic right now. There’s plenty to be positive about, nobody played badly. Sexton controlled the game well, CJ Stander was playing like somebody who was taking calls for him to be dropped personally. Josh Van Der Flier, as he always is, was everywhere.
There are generally two ways a new era starts, hit the ground running or slightly tentative. Sometimes the latter can be more rewarding in the long run. It takes time to build something, and we may not truly see this Ireland team perform exceptionally until the November series.
Ireland women got a win they desperately needed. It was a long time coming. The first 20 minutes were outstanding, and the girls in green built a lead. Then Scotland started to come back. If it wasn’t for an intercept try by Parsons, who looks a real prospect, we may have been set up for a long tournament.
This weeks Irish rugby podcast is up now. On Provincial Jazz we hear from The Couch Pundit, Fiona Hayes, and get the Welsh perspective ahead of this weekends games from Cardiff Rugby Life.
Ireland will need to improve against Wales. But they are going in the right direction.
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The 2010’s came to a close a few days ago with two interpro derbies. It’s been an up and down 10 years, but it was certainly Ireland’s most successful Rugby decade.
We were joined by The Couch Pundit on this weeks Provincial Jazz to look back at the Irish sides this past 10 years and highlight some of the best moments of the decade. We also had Leinster and Ireland stars Hannah O’Connor and Michelle Claffey who spoke about a historic fixture for the Leinster Women’s side who went to Twickenham to play Harlequins.
As I said, it was Ireland’s most successful decade, so let’s take a look back.
Ireland Men’s went into the decade as GrandSalm winners, so it was an underwhelming Six Nations with two losses, particularly losing the last ever (at least for now) match at Croke Park to Scotland. Brian O’Driscoll made his 100th cap against Wales, and Ireland got a fighting victory away to England to finish 2nd.
The Celtic League (as it still was) saw the edition of the play-off series. Leinster bet Munster in the final, but would go on to fall to Ospreys (it really does make the decade feel a long time when you consider Ospreys were one of the best teams in the league). Leinster and Munster lost to Toulouse and Biarritz in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup (again back in the day Biarritz were a classy outfit. Toulouse went on to win the All French final.
In the Summer series Ireland men suffered heavy losses to New Zealand and Australia, before an improved November series saw them narrowly miss out to the SpringBoks, beat Samoa, and impress against New Zealand, which featured a beauty from Brian O’Driscoll.
As for the Women, it was a decent run in the Six Nations with 3 wins. The World Cup was a bright spot despite heavy losses to England and the USA, with wins in the pool stages against the states and Kazakhstan, and a 7th place match victory over Scotland.
2011 will be remembered for another near miss in a World Cup Quarter Final for the men’s team. After 3 wins in the Six Nations and an up and down warm-up campaign, a sluggish victory made it look as if it would be another World Cup heartache. However Ireland would pick a famous win against Australia, and win their final two games comfortably. This was the set up to an all too familiar fall with a frustrating loss against Wales.
Leinster would lift Europe’s grandest prize with a thrilling comeback against Northampton in the final. Leinster beat Ulster in the Pro12 (with two Italian teams having joined) before Munster would go on to win the final.
As for the Women, it was two wins, and three defeats in the Six Nations, two of which were narrow, one was comprehensive. Leinster Women beat Munster in the interpro final.
A first ever all Irish European Cup final saw Leinster beat Ulster by 28 points to lift the European Cup for a 2nd season in a row. Connacht were in the Champions Cup for the first time.
The Women’s team came close to picking up a famous win away to France, but would have to settle for three wins from five. Munster Women won the interpro series.
Ireland Men once again came 3rd in the Six Nations, and had a decent November international series with wins against Fiji and Argentina.
The year that was the start of the most successful period in Irish rugby history. The Ireland women won a GrandSlam for the first time in Six Nations history. Leinster Women were victorious in the interpro series.
It began with a whimper for the men, a 5th place finish in the Six Nations, and an underwhelming Autumn international campaign against minnows USA and Canada that was overshadowed by the Lions series.
In the league Leinster beat Ulster in an All Ireland final, while in Europe the boys in blue would lift the Challenge Cup, while Munster made the champions cup semi-finals.
Joe Schmidt’s first November series saw Ireland brush aside Samoa, be brushed aside by Australia, and then come astonishingly close to a famous first ever win against New Zealand.
2013 ended with heartbreak-induced cautious optimism, and 2014 delivered. The 2014 campaign will be remembered for being Brian O’Driscoll’s final outing in green, and he lifted the Six Nations trophy with a last day victory over France. Leinster, Munster, and Ulster all reached the league semi-finals, with Leinster beating Glasgow in the final. Both Leinster and Munster would lose out to Toulon in the European Cup, which saw the beginning of the French sides strangle hold on the competition.
Ireland would beat Argentina in the summer tour, before taking 3 wins from 3 in the November internationals.
Ireland Women became the first Irish international side to beat New Zealand, beating them in the World Cup before getting knocked out to England. The Six Nations saw another 3 wins from 3.
The 2015 Six Nations will be remembered for having the most hectic mental ending any rugby competition has ever had. Ireland came out on top after beating Scotland, not before France nearly handed England the trophy at the death. The World Cup promised a lot with an impressive win against France, but ultimately Ireland were well beaten in the Quarter Finals once again.
Leinster were beaten by an extra time intercept try against Toulon in the European Cup Semi-Finals, and yet failed to make the Pro14 play-offs for the first time, with Glasgow becoming the first Scottish side to win the league, beating Ulster and Munster in the knockout rounds.
Ireland women would win the Six Nations, and play a historic November international. Munster won the interpros.
Connacht triumphed in the Pro12 with an exciting brand of rugby. The rest of the provinces struggled in Europe, none making it out of the pool.
Ireland Women won 3 Six Nations games, and played a historic November 3-test series. Leinster won the Women’s interpros.
The men’s team had a relatively disappointing Six Nations with 2 wins and a draw. The 2016 tour of South Africa saw Ireland pick up their first ever test win away to one of the top 3 Tri Nations sides. And then came that historic game in Chicago, where Ireland beat New Zealand for the very first time.
An improved Six Nations saw Ireland deny England a Grandslam. They then had a two test series win over Japan, and beat South Africa, Argentina, and Fiji in November.
There was disappointment for Ireland women, as after 4 wins in the Six Nations, they had a poor World Cup on home soil, failing to automatically qualify for 2021. Munster won the Women’s interpros.
Leinster and Munster made the Champions Cup Quarter Finals, but we were once again denied the old rivals in the final. Leinster and Munster both fell to Scarlets in the play-offs of the final Pro12 season.
At the end of the next decade we may still look back at 2018 as Ireland’s finest year. A grandslam secured in Twickenham, a first ever Southern Hemisphere series win, coming against Australia, and a first ever home win against New Zealand. If only the World Cup had been in this year, but that’s a bit of a case of this.
Leinster would complete a historic double, winning all their European Cup games and then lifting the Pro14.
Leinster women were successful in winning the Interpro series. And Ireland women won just 2 Six Nations games and lost both their November internationals.
The most disappointing year in Irish rugby history. Poor Six Nations which led to an incredibly frustrating World Cup. Ireland would finish 2nd in the pool and lose to New Zealand comprehensively in the Quarter Final. They looked worn out and without ideas.
The Women were no more fortunate, winning just one game in the Six Nations. Leinster Women retained the Interpro series, and played a historic fixture at Twickenham.
The Leinster men’s side retained the Pro14 having lost the European Cup final.
A decade of ups and downs, of success and failure. There were plenty of lows but a lot more highs. Sure it ended badly, but the foundation is there fro success.
You can listen to our Irish rugby podcast every Tuesday.
Happy New Year.
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