Six Nations Hospitality Packages available at Aviva Stadium
Ireland have been instrumental in some brilliant rugby union internationals. The Irish have the ability to raise their game, particularly against England. Clashes between the two set the pulse racing.
Impish Irish three quarters with the wizardry of goblins set the Aviva Stadium in Dublin alight. Massive forwards with hands like shovels piling into rucks with all the subtlety of a JCB. The passion, intensity and often the unorthodoxy of the rugby is enthralling.
Matched only by the Irish fans whose love of hospitality, especially the ‘black stuff’, makes for a day out to remember. You have to love the banter.
Especially as a nation’s honour is at stake. The Irish supporters follow their heroes in raucous ribaldry determined on a good time whatever the result. The influx of Irish to Twickenham, Cardiff and Murrayfield is a bit like the turnout to the Cheltenham racing festival. But it is all in fine spirit and when the referee blows his final whistle it is handshakes and back slaps all round.
Some wonderful players have run out onto the pitch for Ireland – names like O’Reilly, Gibson, O’Connell, McBride and Slattery command massive respect for their exploits for Ireland and the Lions, the stuff of legend.
Mike Gibson was a beautifully balanced centre with an ability to sniff out space and glide through gaps, yet a fierce tackler in defence.
Won his 69th and final cap beating Australia in the second Test in Sydney in 1979 at the age of 36. With 12 appearances for the Lions, Gibson held a then record 81 caps on his retirement.
On and off the rugby pitch twice Lions tourist Tony O’Reilly had the golden touch. He enjoyed an international career spanning 15 years – a record he shared with Gibson – before embarking on a business career with the Independent News and Media Group as well as being CEO and chairman of HJ Heinz.
Jack Kyle would be many people’s choice for the greatest fly-half the game has ever seen.
He won 46 caps between 1947 and 1958, plus six for the Lions. Kyle masterminded Ireland’s golden period of rugby, when they won their first-ever Grand Slam, in 1948, followed by the Triple Crown in 1949 and the Home Nations championship in 1951.
Nicknamed the ‘Raging Potato’ or ‘Uncle Fester’, 58-times capped Keith Wood helped revolutionise the hooker’s berth for his all-action style and ability to be in the right place at the right time to give Ireland a cutting edge in attack. Scored 15 tries and enjoyed a dynamic 1997 tour of South Africa with the Lions. Excelled again in Australia four years later.
Official NatWest Six Nations Hospitality Packages
The legendary Willie John McBride’s record stands with any of the greats of the game. Almost 20 years of service with Ulster, 63 caps for Ireland and five tours with the Lions. The series wins in New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974 have gone down in sporting folklore. McBride was pack leader in ‘71 before leading the ‘74 trip. Played more matches (67) than any Lions forward and more Tests (17) than any Lion in history.
And mention to of Paul O’Connell, a prolific pilferer of opposition ball at the lineout, rock in defence and aggressive ball carrier; Fergus Slattery, an all-action openside who played 61 times for Ireland including 17 as skipper; and the iconic Willie Duggan who’s hard as nails on-field exploits ranked up there with his penchant for late nights.
Once told by a coach that if he gave up the smokes he would be faster around the pitch, Duggan quipped back: “But then I would spend most of the match offside!”
Great characters and special occasions.