Are Ireland blessed or cursed by Leinster and Munster production lines?

Are Ireland blessed or cursed by Leinster and Munster production lines? Leinster and Munster are the two giant provinces of Irish rugby, each winning a multitude of honours in their […]

Are Ireland blessed or cursed by Leinster and Munster production lines?

Leinster and Munster are the two giant provinces of Irish rugby, each winning a multitude of honours in their prestigious history, and they have also cultivated greats of the game. Keith Wood, Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara all emerged from the academies of the respective teams, with all four players excelling at the highest level for the Shamrocks and the British and Irish Lions.

The tradition continues to this day as Jonny Sexton among others has ensured the supply line remains just as effective in producing world-class talent. For a small country compared to England and France, Ireland have had few issues in developing outstanding players.

Over the last 20 years, there have been few incidents where the quality on display has diminished. Ireland have seemingly had a stockpile of talent ready to thrust forward into the limelight. The balance of power has shifted between the two titans, although Leinster have enjoyed the greater success of late. Leinster have won the United Rugby Championship for the last four years on the bounce, and are the leading contenders in the rugby union odds at 1/3 to lift the crown once more.

The strength of their team is highlighted by the fact that 12 of their players featured in Andy Farrell’s starting line-up for the first match of the Autumn International series against Japan. The Ireland squad was dominated by Leinster men throughout the series and many of the next generation of stars appear to be emerging from their ranks, including standout hooker Ronan Kelleher, lock James Ryan and backs Jordan Larmour and Hugo Keenan. Given that the majority of the Irish players are working together for both club and country, it does allow them to maintain a level of cohesion on the field that other leading sides in the world don’t get. Both England and France have competitive leagues that have seen their players dispersed through the clubs. Therefore, there is more pressure on Eddie Jones and Fabien Galthie to blend their teams together in a short period of time. In England’s squad for the Autumn Internationals, there were players from ten teams from the Premiership, with Leicester, Northampton and Harlequins each providing five men from their respective squads. France’s squad was supplied by 12 teams, although 11 of their 42-man squad came from the ranks of Toulouse.

Rugby, unlike football, has a tradition of players remaining in their country of birth except for a brief spell when the leading lights of the game were attracted to the riches of the Top 14. Ireland have benefited from their traditions more than any other team in the world, although it may have been to their detriment at the World Cup where the lack of outside ideas or style may have allowed them to progress beyond the quarter-final stage. The familiarity is comfortable and has helped build a solid foundation of talent. Whether it has been the flair from Leinster from O’Driscoll and Sexton, or the brawn delivered by Munster with O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan. Ireland always know what they’re getting from their academies across the country. The question is whether it will be enough to eventually win a World Cup? History is against them in this aspect.

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