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The 14 Players Born In New Zealand That Represented Ireland At Test Level

The 14 Players Born In New Zealand That Represented Ireland At Test Level
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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With Ireland set to face New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup this weekend, it is difficult to overlook the recent history between the sides.

Ireland went most of their existence without ever experiencing victory against the All Blacks, a hoodoo that was finally brought to an end in Chicago in 2016.


They would then go on to win four of the six meetings that followed, including a historic series victory in New Zealand in 2022.

Of course, their meetings on the pitch do not represent the only shared heritage between the sides.

Down through the years, quite a few players born in New Zealand have gone to on to play for Ireland at international level. That includes three members of our squad at this year's Rugby World Cup.

With that in mind, here is a look at the 14 men that went on that journey during the course of their careers.



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The 14 players born in New Zealand to play for Ireland

Andy Ward

11 November 2000; Andy Ward, Ireland, is tackled by Hideki Namba, Japan. International Rugby Friendly, Ireland v Japan, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Andy Ward was the trailblazer in terms of Kiwi-born players representing Ireland, becoming the first one to do back in the 1990s.

A native of Whangarei, he played youth and reserve level in his native country before joining Ballynahinch RFC in Down in 1994. He would make his debut for Ulster three years later and was part of the 1999 Heineken Cup winning side, before eventually becoming captain in 2001.


The flanker would make his debut for Ireland in 1998, going on to make 28 appearances in the three years that followed. After retiring from rugby, he would have a stint at the strength and conditioning coach of the Antrim inter-county Gaelic football team and also run a fitness studio in the county.


Bundee Aki

Bundee Aki's selection to the Ireland squad back in 2017 caused some controversy at the time, but there is no doubt he has gone on to become an absolutely stellar performer in green.


He has been one of Ireland's most consistent performers over the last five years or so, bringing his game to new heights in 2023. He has probably been the team's best player so far at this year's Rugby World Cup.

Jamison Gibson-Park

Considering how integral Jamison Gibson-Park has been to Ireland over the last couple of years, it is a tad strange to think that he only made his debut for the side in 2020.

He has usurped Conor Murray as the first choice scrum-half under Andy Farrell, a title he has held onto despite the Munster man's resurgence in form over the last number of months.


He had earned eight caps for the Maori All Blacks prior to his move to Leinster in 2016.


Jared Payne

Ireland New Zealand

Jared Payne was a key player in the Ireland team for a couple years under Joe Schmidt, earning 20 caps at test level from 2014-2017.


The Tauranga native represented New Zealand at U21 level before he made the move to Ulster in 2011, making his Irish debut three years later after qualifying due to the residency rule.

He was part of the Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand in 2017, and while he would not make a test appearance during that period, an injury he picked up on the tour would ultimately force him to retire from the game the following year.

He would go on to become a defence coach at Ulster, before taking up the same role at Clermont Auvergne in 2022.

Sean McCahill

Sean McCahill and born and raise in Auckland, although he was always eligible to represent Ireland due to his father hailing from the country.

He won a solitary cap for Ireland, appearing in a game against Fiji in 1995.

READ HERE: Six Moments That Have Shaped Ireland's Rivalry With New Zealand Since 2016

Joey Carbery

Joey Carbery is not thought of as an overseas Ireland player, but he was born in New Zealand before moving to Athy with his Irish parents as an 11-year old.

He would go on to star at Blackrock, before then playing for Leinster and the Ireland U20s. He made his test debut in 2016, going on to earn 37 caps in the years that followed.

While he has struggled with injuries and form in recent times, you would expect the 27-year old to add to that tally in the seasons ahead.

Ross Nesdale

While he never played club or provincial rugby in Ireland, Ross Nesdale was eligible to play for the country thanks to his paternal grandparents.

Having joined Newcastle Falcons in 1997, the hooker was quickly brought into the Irish setup. He would go on to earn 13 caps over the next couple of years and made two appearances at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

He would go on to work in the All Blacks setup after his retirement in 2001.


James Lowe

James Lowe has completely changed the dynamic in the Ireland team since making his debut in 2020, bringing the type of dynamic wing play that the team had been calling out for in the years prior.

His attacking play has been exceptional since he first arrived at Leinster, but his defence has come on a remarkable amount since coming into the Ireland fold under Andy Farrell.


Mike Mullins

Mike Mullins was born in Auckland to an Irish father and a mother of Irish descent, meaning he had never actually played rugby in Ireland prior to being called up to the Ireland 'A' squad in April of 1999, going on to join the tour to Australia later that summer.

Mullins would move to Young Munster the following season, making his Ireland debut soon after. He would be part of the Rugby World Cup squad later that year, winning 16 caps in total.

The centre would make over 100 appearances for Munster before leaving the province in 2006.

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Sean Reidy

Sean Reidy qualified to play for Ireland through his grandfather, meaning he did not have to wait three years to make his Ireland debut after joining Ulster in 2014.

His test debut would come in 2016 during the tour in South Africa, with his second and final cap coming in Japan the following year. The flanker would spend eight years at Ulster before returning to New Zealand.

Nathan White

Ireland New Zealand

Having joined Leinster in 2011 before moving to Connacht a year later, Nathan White would make his Ireland debut in 2015 after qualifying through the residency rule.

The prop would earn 13 caps at test level in the seven months that followed, although his career would soon be cut short due to injury. Due to ongoing issues after suffering a concussion against Leinster in March of 2016, he would be forced to hand up his boots a few months later.

Rodney Ah You

Having represented New Zealand at U19 and U20 level, the signing of Rodney Ah You was seen as a major coup for Connacht when he arrived at the province in 2010.

He would go on to make his Ireland debut in 2014 after qualifying under the residency rule, making his debut during the tour to Argentina. He would earn three caps in total, spending eight years in Irish rugby with Connacht and Ulster before joining Newcastle Falcons in 2018.

He would retire in 2021 after a brief spell with RC Vannes in the French second tier.

Michael Bent

The story of Michael Bent's Ireland career is an incredibly interesting one.

Qualifying for the country through an Irish grandmother, he was immediately brought into the test squad after signing for Leinster in 2012. In fact, he would make his Ireland debut before his provincial one having been drafted in for the November internationals.

Bent would not add to those caps in the manner that would have been expected in the years that followed, earning just five despite spending nine years with Leinster. He would retire from the game and return to New Zealand in 2021.

However, there was another twist to come.

After Ireland suffered a number of injuries in the front row during their tour to New Zealand last year, Bent would be called up to train with the squad and proved to be a valuable resource for Andy Farrell and his coaching team. He would even be rewarded with a cameo off the bench in a win over the Maori All Blacks a few weeks later.

Isaac Boss

Isaac Boss qualified to play for Ireland through his grandmother, meaning he made his international debut just one year after joining Ulster in 2005.

The scrumhalf was in and out of the squad over the decade that followed, although he would win 22 caps at test level and scored a try in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Boss would prove to be a valuable contributor at both Ulster and Leinster during his time in Irish rugby, winning a number of trophies at the latter.

He would return to New Zealand in 2016, hanging up his boots after a brief spell with Waikato. Since then, moved into coaching at a local level and also acted as a TV commentator for Sky Sports New Zealand.

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Joe Schmidt Shared A Beautiful Moment With Johnny Sexton's Son After Ireland Loss


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