An eventful twelve months for the Ireland Men’s team saw silverware won, records broken, milestones achieved, and the bond between the players and fans grow ever stronger during a rip-roaring Rugby World Cup campaign.
4 – The Ireland Men’s team clinched their fourth ever Grand Slam in March, and their first won on home soil since 1948. They scored four tries during their 29-16 Guinness Six Nations final round win over England at the Aviva Stadium.
The number four also covers Andy Farrell’s new long-term IRFU contract which was announced recently. He will continue as Ireland head coach until the end of the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
32 – Of the Championship squad announced back in January, 32 players were used during the Grand Slam-winning campaign. 32 was also Ireland’s points total when they overcame France at home in arguably the match of the 2023 Six Nations.
7 – There were seven ever-present players in Ireland’s starting XV across the Championship. The back-three of Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe, Andrew Porter and James Ryan in the tight five, and back rowers Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, all made five starts.
With six tries and five player-of-the-match awards between them, Keenan, Hansen and Doris were each nominated for the Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship award.
80 – During this year’s tournament, Ireland became the first team to accumulate 80 wins in Six Nations history when they battled through a series of injuries to beat Scotland 22-7 in Edinburgh.
Since five became six back in 2000, the men in green have won 81 of their 120 Championship games, compared to England’s 79 and France’s 77. Wales have amassed 63 victories to date, with Scotland currently on 40 and Italy on 13.
566 – In that same game against Scotland, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton drew level with his former team-mate, Ronan O’Gara, at the top of the Six Nations’ scoring charts. He then kicked nine points against England to become the Championship’s all-time record points scorer with 566 points.
20 – Farrell’s men scored 20 tries during their Grand Slam-winning run, bagging four try-scoring bonus points along the way. There were thirteen different try scorers, led by wingers Hansen and Lowe with three each.
6 – As Grand Slam champions and back-to-back Triple Crown winners, Ireland conceded just six tries across the 2023 Championship. Italy breached their line twice during the teams’ February clash in Rome, and the other sides scored one each against the table toppers.
Ireland leaked four tries in 2022, the fewest amount they have conceded since Joe Schmidt steered them to back-to-back Six Nations titles in 2015 when their whitewash was crossed only three times.
296078 – The combined attendances at Ireland’s five 2023 Six Nations matches reached almost 300,000. The biggest attendance (74,500) was for their first round win over Wales in Cardiff, and the visits of France and England to the Aviva Stadium both drew a capacity crowd of 51,700.
1 – Ireland came into 2023 as the world’s number one ranked team following their historic Test series win in New Zealand and an unbeaten November campaign. They previously reached top spot in 2019.
Farrell’s side led the World Rugby Rankings for 455 days, near enough 15 months in total and spanning 16 consecutive wins, before losing their Rugby World Cup quarter-final showdown with New Zealand in mid-October. They are currently second, behind world champions South Africa.
16 – While Ireland’s 17-match winning streak was ended by the All Blacks, they are still unbeaten at the Aviva Stadium in almost three years. Since losing 15-13 to France in the 2021 Six Nations, they have won 16 Tests in a row at IRFU HQ.
They set a new national record by beating les Bleus back in February, for their 13th straight home win, before securing the Grand Slam against England, and winning their two Bank of Ireland Nations Series games against Italy and England in August.
100 – Irish Rugby welcomed two new centurions in 2023, both of them proud Munster men. Keith Earls marked his 100th appearance for Ireland with a memorable, high-flying try (his 36th) in the corner against England before the World Cup.
Peter O’Mahony became the tenth Ireland player to reach 100 caps for the country when he ran out against Scotland in the Pool B finale at the Stade de France in October.
50 – The caps milestones came thick and fast this year with Porter, Ryan and Dave Kilcoyne reaching the 50-cap mark against France. A few weeks later, Garry Ringrose and van der Flier did likewise against Scotland and England respectively.
Facing South Africa during the World Cup, Bundee Aki produced a player-of-the-match performance on the occasion of his 50th Ireland cap.
3 – Tom Stewart, Ciaran Frawley and Calvin Nash made their Ireland debuts in the run-up to the World Cup. They came off the bench to get their first taste of Test rugby against Italy at the Aviva Stadium in early August.
As well as those three new caps, the IRFU awarded caps to 17 players who previously featured for Ireland but were not awarded caps at the time for games which were not then recognised as international Test matches.
Dating back to 1946, and ranging up to 1989, the players were honoured with an Ireland cap and enrolled in the official list of international players. A special event took place before the England match in August.
33 – The twenty Rugby World Cup teams selected an initial tournament squad of 33 players, two more than the previous World Cup. Ireland’s touring party included 18 World Cup debutants, while Sexton, Earls and Conor Murray were picked for their fourth World Cup.
38-year-old skipper Sexton was the squad’s elder statesman, and the youngest members of the group were Joe McCarthy (22) and Jack Crowley (23).
82 – Despite falling behind to an early try, Ireland went on to dominate their first opponents, Romania, in Bordeaux as they racked up their biggest points total (82-8) in a World Cup game. It was their largest winning margin too.
27 – Ireland put together four straight wins to top their World Cup pool for only the third time, following on from the 2011 and 2015 tournaments. They accumulated 27 tries in doing so, matching France’s try haul as Pool A winners.
Aki, Sexton, Tadhg Beirne and Keenan scored three tries each, while there were braces from Jamison Gibson-Park, Rob Herring, O’Mahony, Hansen and Lowe, along with single efforts from McCarthy, Doris, Iain Henderson, Dan Sheehan and Ringrose.
8 – During their subsequent knockout clash with New Zealand, Ireland added three more tries (Aki and Gibson-Park touched down, and there was a second-half penalty try), but they could not avoid exiting at the quarter-final stage for the eighth time in World Cup history.
308689 – Ireland were one of the best supported teams at the World Cup in France, and the figures back that up with a combined 308,689 fans attending the five matches that Farrell’s charges played at the tournament.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest crowd they played in front of was at the Stade de France quarter-final (78,845), but just short of that number attended the pool wins over South Africa and Scotland in Saint-Denis where the Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’, and ‘The Fields of Athenry’, were sung so memorably in celebration.
1378000 – Virgin Media Television drew the biggest viewership in its history for Ireland’s quarter-final against New Zealand. Their live broadcast of the game was watched by 1.378 million people (78% of the total TV viewers), and peaked at 1.541 million as Ireland pressed for a late match-winning score.
17 – The gut-wrenching 28-24 loss to New Zealand ended Ireland’s longstanding winning streak, which stretched back to the first Test of the 2022 Test series at Eden Park.
Farrell’s men set a new national record of 17 Test wins in a row, with New Zealand (2015-2016) and England (2015-2017) the only tier 1 teams to win most consecutive Tests (18 each). Notably, Ireland ended both of their winning runs, in Chicago and Dublin respectively.
5 – Along with Farrell winning the World Rugby Coach of the Year award for the first time, 2023 saw five Ireland players picked on the World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year, in partnership with Capgemini.
Aki, a World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, and his centre partner Ringrose, Doris, who was selected at blindside flanker, and front rowers Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong, made up the Irish quintet. World Cup hosts France also had five men included, with New Zealand (4) and South Africa (1) completing the line-up.
The number five also covers how many ever-present backs and forwards Ireland had at the World Cup. Aki, Ringrose, Keenan, Lowe and Sexton started all five games, while Porter, Furlong, Beirne, O’Mahony and Doris did likewise in the pack.
38 – While there was no dream finish to his professional career, Sexton still bowed out in record-breaking fashion in France. He began the tournament with 24 points against Romania, equalling incoming IRFU Performance Director David Humphreys’ national record for most points in a World Cup tie.
The Pool B opener in Bordeaux also saw Sexton claim John Hayes’ record as Ireland’s oldest men’s international player (37 years and 277 days), which had stood since August 2011. He has moved the record on to 38 years and 92 days.
1108 – Sexton retired as Ireland’s all-time record points scorer with 1108 points in 118 appearances (18 tries, 182 conversions, 214 penalties and four drop goals). He took over from long-time record holder O’Gara (1083) when scoring 16 first half points against Tonga in Nantes.
He hung up his boots as the fifth most-capped Ireland player of all-time, and the joint-eighth highest try scorer. He captained his country to 25 wins in 30 Tests, for the best winning rate (83.33%) of any regular Irish captain in the professional era.