4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
Pictured above: Ireland lock Paul O'Connell is congratulated after scoring the eighth and final try in Ireland's Guinness Autumn Series demolition of the Pacific Islanders.
It was O'Connell's sixth try in 39 Tests and second in five games for Ireland - he also touched down in the second Test against the All Blacks in June.
The Limerick man, who missed out on winning the IRB World Player of the Year award on Sunday, will remember his last day at the old Lansdowne Road stadium, but he has happy memories to cherish from Munster's Heineken Cup run there last season.
He said: "It is very loud (at Lansdowne) but it's a great thing that the crowd is so close to you and you hope you won't lose that within your ground. I know it's an old rickety ground, but it really is a fabulous place - the atmosphere for those two games (Munster v Perpignan and Munster v Leinster) was just incredible and couldn't really be replicated in grounds with that capacity.
"Those few days at Lansdowne Road rank up there as the happiest in the old ground - hopefully there'll be more to come in the new one."
There is smiles all round as Ulster prop Bryan Young congratulates O'Connell on his late score. Young, 25, was one of eight Ulster players to be capped during Ireland's Guinness Autumn Series with Neil Best and Isaac Boss amongst those who really enhanced their reputations.
Ulster coach Mark McCall said: "From an Ulster point of view, it was encouraging seeing just how well everyone has done, both players who have been there before and players in there for the first time.
"The challenge for our players who have now won seven or eight caps is to go on and win 50 caps for Ireland. We believe they can if they keep improving."
The Irish players and management enjoy a lap of honour as they give thanks to the crowd for their support during the Guinness Autumn Series and say their farewells to the old Lansdowne Road stadium.
Under current coach Eddie O'Sullivan, Ireland won 23 of their 27 Test matches at the old ground since 2002. The four defeats have come against England (2003), France (2005), New Zealand (2005) and Australia (2005).
Eddie O'Sullivan and Frankie Sheahan share a word as the Irish players and management make their way around the old stadium. Reacting to Pacific Islanders coach Pat Lam's comment that Ireland can deservedly call themselves 'the second best side in the world', O'Sullivan said: "It's a nice compliment from Pat but I don't know if it's true. All I know is we've made good progress and I'm very happy.
"You can get wrapped up in that nonsense whereby you tell yourself how good you are. We need focus on what we're about. We've done a good job this autumn and the lads deserve a pat on the back for a good month's work.
"But you put it in the bank and kick on because before you know it we'll be looking down the barrel of the Six Nations and there will be a whole bunch of new challenges there. We're not getting carried away. Our success this month doesn't mean anything if we don't build on it and that's what we're trying to do."
John Hayes sees the funny side of things as Bryan Young and Gordon D'Arcy attempt to throw the the Munster and Ireland prop into the crowd! The Bruff clubman, 33, took the record of Phil Orr (58 caps) as Ireland's most-capped prop earlier this year and his caps tally now stands at 68.
Hayes has become a pivotal member of the Irish pack - his first 34 caps came in 35 Tests (he missed the game against the USA in 2000).
Brian O'Driscoll and Eddie O'Sullivan pose for photographers as they salute the crowd at Lansdowne Road. Pacific Islanders captain Simon Raiwalui reckons Ireland will have "their best chance ever" of being successful at a World Cup next year in France.
"If they can keep that squad together, if they can keep them fit for all the important games and if they can keep the form they're displaying at the moment, they have to be one of the favourites to win the tournament," said the Fijian lock.
"Everyone looks to New Zealand. There is no doubt that they have to be hot favourites, but they will have competition. If Ireland play as well as they can, and New Zealand don't play quite as well as they are capable of, Ireland could win a head-to-head between the two."
Munster and Ireland team-mates Donncha O'Callaghan and Ronan O'Gara who made a nice gesture of giving their match jerseys to two disabled children who had watched Ireland's win from the South Terrace's Goal Line seats.
Sunday saw O'Gara on the replacements bench for the first time since last November when David Humphreys started in the win over Romania. The Corkman was impressed by Paddy Wallace's performance at out-half against the Pacific Islanders.
He said: "Fair play to Paddy. It isn't easy coming in there for a fellow who isn't used to playing at 10 for his province. He made it look remarkably easy. But I don't think it was that easy - it helped that he started so well."
Gordon D'Arcy has only his shorts left after throwing the rest of his match kit into the crowd at Lansdowne Road. The Wexford man got on as a replacement to win his 26th cap against the Pacific Islanders.
Ireland's first ever international at Croke Park - the RBS 6 Nations tie with France on Sunday, February 11 - comes a day after D'Arcy's 27th birthday.
A view of the empty stands at Lansdowne Road after Ireland's Guinness Autumn Series win over the Pacific Islanders. The first international took place at the Dublin 4 ground on March 11, 1878 between Ireland and England. Since then, 243 more Test matches involving Ireland have taken placed at Lansdowne.
The old stadium, the brainchild of Henry Wallace Dunlop, has a capacity of 49,250 with a seated capacity of 36,000. The first match played at the venue was an Interprovincial between Leinster and Ulster in 1876, and fittingly, on New Year's Eve, the same two provinces will lock horns for Magners League points in the final game before the stadium's redevelopment.
**All photos by Inpho Photography**
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