After the rugby season has come to a close, we take a look back over an eventful season for Ireland the four provinces that included dizzying heights, dreadful lows and the end of the greatest careers in the history of the game.
The End of An Era
Brian O’Driscoll called time on his storied career at the end of this season. BOD ended his career in a fitting manner, playing his last match in a Leinster jersey in their triumphant win over Ulster in the PRO12 final. Unfortunately injury meant that the talismanic centre could only play 10 minutes in the final, but he received a standing ovation by the fans for his services to the sport. The former Irish captain also ended his international career on a high note, with a tense win over France to claim the Six Nations Championship.
BOD will be sorely missed by Ireland and Leinster fans. The Dubliner is the top Irish try scorer of all time and was pivotal in both of Ireland's Six Nations wins and Leinster's three Heineken Cup wins as well as the provinces Amlin Challange Cup success last year.
Leinster mourned the loss of another fan favourite this year. Gordan D’Arcy shaved off his famous beard after Ireland’s successful Six Nations campaign. This coupled with BOD’s retirement meant that the Blues had to go through an extended grieving period.
Ulster fans also witnessed an end of an era this season. The historic home of Ulster rugby Ravenhill became the Kingspan Stadium at the end of the season.
Ulster fans were saddened with the news of Stephen Ferris’ retirement at the end of the season. The flanker was forced to hang up his boots after failing to recover from a recurring ankle injury.
By far the highlight of the year for Irish rugby fans was the national side’s successful Six Nations tournament. It was a tense finish with England and France having a chance of securing the trophy on the final day. Thankfully, Ireland held on to defeat France by two points and bring home the trophy in Brian O’Driscoll’s last appearance for his country.
A fine run in the PRO12 league saw Leinster capture the trophy with an emphatic 24-18 victory over Ulster in the RDS. The win capped off an incredible season for the Blues that saw them top the league, just edging out Glasgow Warriors in second place.
Munster had an exceptional run in the Heineken Cup that saw them reach the semi-finals. Their campaign for one of the most coveted trophies in club rugby was cut short against eventual winners Toulon. A lionhearted performance by the Munster men saw them narrowly lose the game 21-16.
The team’s performances in Europe saw them recruit a new celebrity fan in the form of Russell Crowe.
While in one way, this season marked the end of Brian O’Driscoll’s career, he also began a new career in broadcasting. The former Ireland captain was snapped up by Newstalk’s Off The Ball as the show’s rugby correspondent. Drico will start in his new role in September.
The future looks bright for the four provinces with several marquee names being brought in from overseas. Connacht announced the signing of veteran All Black Mils Muliaina, Leinster sealed the signature of Australian international Kane Douglas while Brumbies centre Andrew Smith joined Munster.