- Rugby union in Ireland
country = Ireland
sport = rugby union
union = Irish Rugby Football Union
registered = 100,974
Rugby World Cup
national2 = Six Nations
Rugby World Cup Sevens
IRB Sevens World Series
countryflagvar = rugby
During the 1860s and 1870s, Rugby along with
Association footballstarted to become popular in Ireland. Trinity College, Dublinwas an early stronghold of Rugby. According to Jack Mahon, even in the Irish countryside, the traditional sport of caid had begun to give way to a "rough-and-tumble game" which even allowed tripping.
The early days of Irish rugby union were dominated by Unionists, though legend goes that the locals only played the sport only because they wanted to beat the English at their own game.
rugby unionis played by both Nationalists and Unionists. Historically it tends to be popular with different social groups in different parts of Ireland, although generally speaking it is regarded as a Middle Classsport in Ireland and further afield. In Munster& Connacht, it has a reputation of being more of a Working classgame, in Dublina Middle Classgame, whilst in Northern Irelandit is traditionally played in the mainly Protestantgrammar schools. The changing climate in Northern Irelandpolitics has rather ironically altered this percieved tradition with the introduction of Rugby Unioninto an increasing number of Roman Catholicgrammar schools and Secondary schools in Northern Irelandwhich were exclusively associated with Gaelic gamespreviously. It is true to say overall that currently the vast majority of players representing the professional teams of all of the Provinces of Irelandcome from Middle Classbackgrounds and have attended fee paying schools.
The conversion of rugby from amateurism to professionalism led to the
Irish Rugby Football Union(IRFU) using the provincial structure to create 4 professional teams, with the Irish players on these teams on central contracts to the IRFU, meaning they, not the provinces control when the players play and when they rest. Professionalism has on the whole been very good for the top level of Irish rugby. The national team has won several triple crowns and is able to play at a competitive level with all the world's rugby giants, having beaten all but New Zealand in the last 5 years.
Ireland's provinces have also been successful in the professional era. Ulster won the European Cup in 1999 and for the last 5 years Munster and Leinster have regularly featured in the latter stages of the competition, culminating in Munster's wins in 2006 and 2008. In the Celtic League the provinces are regular winners or near the top of the league. In 2006 the big three Irish provinces finished in the top three places of the league, Ulster claiming the title with a dramatic last second drop goal ensuring they finished above Leinster.
The level below the provinces, the clubs, have probably suffered somewhat in the professional era. Top players play almost exclusively for their provinces with only rare outings for clubs, usually as a result of returing from injury or loss of form. Changes are underway in the club structure to try and make it more attractive, whilst maintaining club ethos.
Irish Rugby Football Union(IRFU) are the governing body for rugby union in Ireland. The IRFU is divided into four branches which represent the four provinces of Ireland: Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.
Irish rugby union system
Irish provinces compete in the Celtic League, now sponsored by
Magners, against Welsh regions and Scotland super-districts. Currently, Leinster, Munster and Ulster also compete in the Heineken Cup, and Connacht compete in the European Challenge Cup.
Another focus for the domestic game in Ireland is the All Ireland League. This was started in 1990 and has now expanded to three divisions.
Rugby unionis common throughout Ireland, but is especially popular in Limerickas well as Belfastand Dublin.
According to the IRB Ireland has 201 rugby union clubs; 614 referees; 25,000 pre-teen male players; 35,000 teen male players; 14,500 senior male players (total male players 74,500) as well as 10,000 pre-teen female players; 800 teen female players; 1,200 senior female players (total female players 12,000). The IRFU [http://www.irishrugby.ie/images/content/theirfu/5549_-_IRFU_Annual_RepWEB.pdf Annual Report for season 2006-2007] reported playing figures within Ireland as follows:
*Adult Male Players: 21740
*Women Players: 1756
*Number of Secondary Schools Players: 23586
*Number of Youth Players: 12472
*Number of Mini Rugby Players: 10967
*Primary School: 32209
*TOTAL PLAYERS: 100974
Northern Irelandrugby union has traditionally been seen as a unionist sport with nationalists preferring to play Gaelic Athletic Associationsports although with the changing political climate many nationalists are now playing the sportFact|date=August 2008.
In many ways secondary schools are the heart of
rugby unionin Ireland. Notable rugby union schools include Crescent College, Christian Brothers College, Cork, Presentation Brothers College, Cork, St. Conleth's College, Rockwell College, Clongowes Wood College, Belvedere College, Blackrock College, Mount Temple, St. Michael's College, Terenure College, The High School Castleknock Collegealso Garbally College, Colaiste Iognaid Galway, Marist College, Athloneand Sligo Grammar School from Connacht, and in Ulster the Belfast giants Campbell College, the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Ballymena Academy, The Royal School, Armaghand Methodist College Belfast, with RBAI and MCB being the dominant schools in the Ulster Schools CupHistory.
The professional era and the advent of the Celtic League and
Heineken Cuphave seen rugby unionbecome a major spectator sportin Ireland. European Cup games are generally well supported in all the provinces, with sellouts the norm and massive crowds in Dublin's Lansdowne Roadfor quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Ulster and Munster have both won the Heineken Cup, while Leinster's best finishes in that tournament have been semifinal appearances. Ulster have led the Celtic League attendances for 3 years in the row and Connacht, Munster and Leinster's crowds have grown year on year. All the provinces are planning major ground upgrades to increase capacity and comfort.
Ireland international games sell out against all but the weakest opposition, and with the team playing at
Croke Parkduring the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road, attendances have topped 80,000.
The national team
Ireland contest the
Millennium Trophywith England as part of the Six Nations Championship.
Every four years the
British and Irish Lionsgo on tour with players from Irelandas well as England, Scotlandand Wales.
Sport in Ireland
Sport in the United Kingdom
* [http://www.irishrugby.ie/ Irish Rugby Football Union]
* [http://www.planet-rugby.com/Teams/Ireland/index.shtml Irish rugby union news from Planet Rugby]
* [http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/FootballStudies/2003/FS0601d.pdf Rugby Union, Irish Nationalism and National Identity in Northern Ireland]
* [http://www.irb.com/InTouch/Regions/UnionInfo.htm?Country=IRELAND IRB statistics for Ireland]
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