Joe MacManus (2; London Irish) Charlie Armstrong (4; Penzance), Seamus McKimm (6; RGS High Wycombe) Sean Dougall (7; Newcastle Falcons), Charlie Mulchrone (9; St. Ambrose College), and Charlie Ingall (12; Reading Oratory) all started the competition in the squad, with Elliott Oâ00Brien (10; London Wasps) returning to the squad, after concussion, on the morning of the final.
Irelandâ00s first real test in the competition came in the semi-final in Biarritz against an England side going for their third successive European Championship. England expected their real challenge to be the French in the final, and underestimated this motivated and committed group of Irish players. Add to this the tactical nous and game plan of the Irish coaches Greg Lynch, Richie Murphy and Jimmy Duffy and you had a formidable combination.
England came second in an exciting game and Ireland went through to the final by 10 points to 7. To quote the RFU Web-site: "England could not break down a stubborn Irish defence".
The final against France was played in a packed Dax Stadium with a large and noisy French support. The Irish supporters were joined by the England team and their supporters who cheered on Ireland! In the final the much lighter Irish team never took a backward step and with two minutes to go were leading 8 â00 3. Unfortunately the French got a try from a rolling maul in the last 90 seconds but missed the conversion to leave the score at the final whistle 8 points each.
The game was decided by a penalty shoot out which Ireland lost 4 â00 3. Whereas, on the surface. this could have been seen as a disappointing finish for the Irish players and management team, it has to be put into the context of the fact that they had not been defeated on the field of play, and this group can hold their heads high as excellent ambassadors of Irish rugby both on and off the field.