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A look back on one of our most successful rugby seasons ever

(Pictured, Munster-bound Joey Carbery celebrates win over the All Blacks)
By Frank Quinn
THERE has never been such a successful season in the history of Irish Rugby as the one just ended.
A grand slam, a Six Nations title, European/Heineken Champions Cup and the Guinness PRO14 titles, combined with a series tour win in Australia.
Almost everything in Irish rugby hinges on the success of the national team and, boy, did they deliver this year. Coached by Joe Schmidt with assistant coaches Simon Easterby and Andy Farrell this trio have to take a huge amount of the credit.
Joe Schmidt’s record at 30th June 2018 is: Played 58, won 42, drew 1, lost 15 – which gives him a 74% unbeaten record. Eddie O’Sullivan’s 2001-2008 record was the next best: shows played 78 games, won 50, lost 28 and a 64% win ratio.
Leinster were truly magnificent all season and they were coached by Leo Cullen with assistant coaches Stuart Lancaster, Girvan Dempsey and John Fogarty.
Looking back at previous decades, where we had good teams at national and provincial levels which excelled but did not measure up to the combined achievements of this last campaign, the difference is clear.
Many of the former international and interprovincial players and coaches will envy this season’s accomplishments
In the last decade where we excelled with a grand slam under Declan Kidney in 2009, and a Leinster Heineken Cup win to top it off in the same year and two Heineken Cup wins for Munster in 2006 and 2008, they still did not match the ‘class of 2018’.
A look at the Irish coaches and resultsfrom 1970 to 2018 (5 decades), shows we won 14 championships and 11 Triple Crowns since 1883 and three Grand Slams since 1908 (first recorded year Wales won it).
1970’s – Ireland won the five nations championship once in 1974 and the coaches were: Roly Meates 1975 – 1977, Noel Murphy 1977 – 1980. France and Wales were the dominant countries in this period
In the 1980s Ireland won/shared 3 championships: won 1982, 1983 shared with France, won 1985 and we won two Triple Crowns in 1982 and 1985. The coaching mix was: 1984-1987 Mick Doyle. 1987 Syd Miller (Inc 1987 RWC with Mick Doyle), Willie John McBride (1983-1984) Tom Kiernan 1981-82. A successful decade for the IRFU which saw the inaugural running of the RWC in 1987.
The 1990s were disappointing, we won zilch, except for Ulster’s Heineken Cup success in 1999 at Lansdowne Road. It was the poorest – barren decade for Ireland.
The mix of coaches included: Ciaran Fitzgerald – 1992, Gerry Murphy 1992-1995, Murray Kidd 1995/96, Brian Ashton 1997 – 1998, Warren Gatland (1998 – 2001). We were bottom of the five nations in 1996/7/8 and Scotland won two championships. The Heineken Champions Cup commenced in 1996.
In the 2000’s we won ONE championship in 2009 and one Grand Slam and we won four Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009. This was extraordinary, with only one Grand Slam and one championship to show for it (England and France were dominant in the championship – Italy joined the Six Nations in 2000). It was a hugely successful period which included three Heineken Cups (Munster 2 Leinster 1). The coaches were: Warren Gatland 1998 – 2001, Eddie O’Sullivan 2001 – 2008, Declan Kidney 2008 – 2013, Michael Bradley did the summer tour in 2008 sandwiched in between O’Sullivan and Kidney.
Looking at the 2010’s, we won three championships, 2014, 2015, 2018 and a Grand Slam in 2018 (+ a Triple Crown). Leinster won three Heineken Cups and we won two away tour series in South Africa and Australia. Ireland beat New Zealand for the landmark first time ever at Soldiers Field in Chicago in 2016.
This makes it the best decade ever of Irish rugby
The coaches were – Declan Kidney 2008-2013, Joe Schmidt 2013 to the present. Les Kiss coached the summer tour in 2013 in between Kidney and Schmidt.
The Rugby World Cup was introduced in 1987 and there have been eight editions since. We have never progressed past the quarter final stages. The next RWC is scheduled for Japan in 2019 where our shortcomings in this four-year event need to be rectified. The Southern hemisphere “own it” having won seven of the eight editions, England managed to break their stranglehold in 2003 by taking the RWC in Australia. We live in hope to earn a serious/official World Rugby top four ranking at the end of it.
In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this wonderful game and fingers crossed for season 2018/19!

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