Highlights: March 2022
While France held their nerve in impressive fashion to win a first Grand Slam title in 12 years, there was no muting of celebrations as Ireland claimed their first Triple Crown since 2018. Going ‘Super Saturday’ Ireland knew a win against Scotland would keep their Championship hopes alive but with England failing to halt the French, the Six Nations title proved elusive.
There were plenty of positives for Ireland to take from the campaign. In addition to the emergence of several key players and a record win at Twickenham, Ireland took 21 points from their five games, with four wins and four try-scoring bonus points along with a losing bonus point in Paris. In fact, Ireland were the first team to record five bonus points in a single Championship and would have done enough to win three of the last six championships.
James Lowe finished as joint top try scorer (3) while Jamison Gibson Park assisted with four tries alongside Romain Ntamack. Hot on the heels of Antoine Dupont, Josh van der Flier was nominated for Player of the Championship having played every minute of every game.
Reuben Crothers became only the third Irish U20 captain to lead his side to Grand Slam glory. In truth, the destination of the championship was never in doubt during what was a comprehensive 59-5 victory over Scotland at Musgrave Park. There has been much to admire about this group, not least their fight to the end against France and the manner in which they dispatched the English in London. Unfortunately there will be no World Cup for the group to contest this year but hope remains that an alternative competition will take its stead.
At the season’s end, we will bid farewell to one of the giants of the Irish game. After a glittering 17 years, Devin Toner has called time on his rugby career. A winner of three Six Nations winners’ medals, including the 2018 Grand Slam with Ireland, Toner has also won four Heineken Cup titles, a Challenge Cup title and seven league titles on his way to becoming the most capped player in Leinster history.
“There is (a fear),” admitted Toner about his impending retirement. “I’ve only known one thing since I left school and I left school in 2004. A lot of people say you get very institutionalised. You’re told where to be, what to do and what to wear, so it’s going to be a lot different.
“But it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. I really am looking forward to it.”
Devin is currently studying for his QFA exams.
In the past few days we were delighted to kick-off our Venture Leadership programme. Exclusive to our members, Venture inspires our players to invest in tomorrow. Created by Rugby Players Ireland’s Player Development team, Venture has come into being by leveraging the vast bank of knowledge within the association’s wide network of experts. Its aim is to to equip our players with the requisite skills to thrive in the business world.
The programme is supported by EU Athletes and the European Commission.
Elsewhere in the Player Development space, our congratulations is due to Brittany Hogan who qualified from DCU with a First Class Honours in Sport Science and Health. Brittany started Ireland’s Six Nations opener against Wales.
Brothers Dan and Adam Leavy are set to launch of Ogham Whiskey, while Vakh Abdaladze spoke to Rugby Players Ireland about establishing his own business – Taste of Georgia (click on the image to read).
Ciara Griffin and her former teammates Claire Molloy, Lindsay Peat, and Cliodhna Moloney have welcomed the publishing of recommendations from the recent review into the women’s game. Although the full report was not made public in a move that was understood by Rugby Players Ireland, Sport Ireland and Government Ministers, IRFU CEO Kevin Potts accepted the failings of the 2018-2023 strategic plan.
“We have fallen short of this aspiration in our women’s game. However, we are committed to putting this right and we regard the recommendations of this independent review as a solid basis from which to reignite the long-term development of women’s rugby in Ireland.”
The IRFU has announced an additional €1million investment in the women’s game, while a full-time Women’s XVs national team programme manager has also been appointed.
In response to the review, Simon Keogh said that he was “confident that today marks the first step in a new journey for the women’s game. Through the Executive Board at Rugby Players Ireland we will seek to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in a real and meaningful way.”
On the field, Ireland fell short against Wales on the opening day of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championship. Despite leading for much of the game, Welsh forward power proved too much for Ireland. Nevertheless, it was clear that a Nichola Fryday-led Ireland are on an upward trajectory such was the dynamic of their play in front of a raucous record crowd.
Eve Higgins was a standout for Ireland. In the days leading up to the game, she spoke to Rugby Players Ireland about how she manages her dual rugby commitments in addition to studying Criminology & Criminal Justice at UCD (click on the image to read).
Our congratulations to Aoibheann Reilly and Anna McGann on their first Irish XVs caps. The pair were also involved as the Irish Sevens squad joined Rugby Players Ireland for a Barista Workshop at the Coffee Laboratory to mark International Women’s Day.
Tackle Your Feelings
Our thanks to both Kathryn Dane and Bundee Aki who both contributed to the campaign over recent weeks.
On International Women’s Day, Kathryn spoke through the medium of an animation about breaking the bias and how she worked on her confidence to continue on her journey through a sport traditionally associated with men.
Bundee spoke of his love for Ireland and the importance of community, especially in Galway where he has become a firm fan favourite since his move from New Zealand in 2015.
Finally, our thanks to St Mary’s College for their continued support of our campaign during their recent schools’ cup run.
At Rugby Players Ireland we have been proud to stand with Alex Soroka and his family. Alex, an academy player at Leinster Rugby, has so far raised almost €50,000 for Okhmadits Childrens’ Hospital in Ukraine for children affected by the ongoing war in the region.
Well done to James Tracy who raised almost €18,000 for The Punchestown Kidney Research Fund by taking a dip in the Irish Sea every day throughout February, adding a minute on each occasion.
Fair play also to Andrew Porter who shaved his head live on the Late Late Show to mark Daffodil Day 2022! Currently out with injury, Porter sacrificed his distinctive blonde locks in support of the Irish Cancer Society, a cause very close to his own heart.
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) March 25, 2022
Another to have become a familiar face on our national broadcaster in recent weeks is Jordan Conroy. Despite topping the leaderboard on the final night of Dancing with the Stars with a routine that judge Brian Redmond said was the best had he even seen across all five seasons, retired national hunt jockey Nina Carbery made home with the glitterball trophy.
Moving On Up
Several players are on the move within Ireland this summer.
Our best wishes to Jake Flannery will join Ulster Rugby at the end of the season on a one-year-deal from Munster Rugby. Flannery’s former Irish U20s captain David Hawkshaw will link up with Connacht and will be joined there by Adam Byrne and Peter Dooley, who recently led Leinster Rugby out on his 100th cap. We also look forward to welcoming Byron Ralston to Galway from the Western Force. Ralston will be boosted by the news that Jarrad Butler will be staying at the Sportsground until at least 2024.
Moving beyond our borders will be Jack Dunne and Rory O’Loughlin who will join Exeter Chiefs. Matt Gallagher will move to Bath, Damian de Allende will also end his time in Ireland to move to a club outside of Europe.
In non-contractual news, we were delighted to see the likes of Jeremy Loughman, Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy receive international call-ups as the Six Nations entered its final weeks.
Temi Lasisi and Chris Cosgrave have won their first Leinster Rugby caps in recent weeks. Both will hope to benefit from the experiences of Johnny Sexton who has further committed his future to the game in Ireland alongside Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne, Ross Byrne, Will Connors, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris, Jordan Larmour, Tommy O’Brien and Dan Sheehan.
After a two-year hiatus, the England v Ireland Legends game took place at the Twickenham Stoop on March 11 with Shane Byrne and his troops emerging victorious. Played in memory of the late Gary Halpin, the game served as a fundraiser for several charities including the Rugby Players Ireland Foundation. Our very own Simon Keogh was part of a new-look side that included recent retirees Tommy O’Donnell and Ian Keatley.
As she began her maternity leave, former Rugby Players Ireland Executive Board Member Louise Galvin spoke to The Players Voice about how pregnancy challenges athletes physically and mentally (click on the image).
Congratulations to Dave McSharry and Hot Chip on winning the Food & Drink Start-Up of the Year Award at the ShelfLife CStore Awards.
Finally, former Rugby Players Ireland Chairperson Rob Kearney made it to the Oval Office.
An incredible day yesterday celebrating St.Patrick’s day – will be very hard to top that experience! pic.twitter.com/QNGDGjuKvZ
— Rob Kearney (@KearneyRob) March 18, 2022
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