Joe Schmidt has done wonders with the Irish team, and victories over Australia and South Africa have only further served to prove that Ireland will coast to the World Cup next year.
Ok, perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. The World Cup is 11 months away, and we all know what happened the last time we had a clean sweep of the end of year international tests in 2006 don't we? It's a shame that rugby is mostly judged around World Cups every 4 years. Ireland tend to peak in between World Cups, so this hasn't always favoured us.
What would happen though, if rugby wasn't all about the World Cups. What if rugby was more like boxing, and the world champions were decided by challenge matches where the champion puts up his "world champion" title in every match they play. How would the rugby landscape look if that was the case?
Fortunately, there is a mythical title called the "Raeburn Shield" that charts the progress of who would be the world champion if this was used in rugby. Starting with the first ever international rugby match between Scotland and England in Raeburn (hence the name), in Scotland. In a similar way to New Zealand's Ranfurly Shield, an actual trophy, this world title would be winnable by all teams in one off games instead of a World Cup that would be winnable to a smaller number of teams.
With the end of the international rugby period for 2014, it's interesting to note who is the current "champion" of the Raeburn Shield. Back in 2013, when New Zealand went on their 14 game unbeaten calendar year, they were crowned Raeburn Shield holders. Their 12 game run as Raeburn Shield holders was ended this year, when South Africa beat their Southern Hemisphere rivals in the final game of the Rugby Championship. South Africa couldn't manage a successful defense however, as they were beaten on their first outing as Raeburn Shield holders in their first game of November.
There you have it: proof that Ireland are the greatest team in the world. After victory over South Africa, we successfully defended the title against Georgia and Australia and end this year as the champions of the world. Savour the success people, Irish rugby hasn't had it so good since the glory days of 2004 and our longest run as champions. Coincidentally, this is the first time that Ireland have held the Raeburn Shield since that November series in 2006.
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