We may have ended the decade in a sour note in Japan, but the 2010s were really a special time for Irish rugby. Entering the decade as Grandslam champions on the back of an undefeated year, it wasn't a linear line of success throughout but overall, it will go down as the country's most successful rugby decade. Last night, World Rugby's "Men's 15s Team of the Decade" was announced and it somewhat reflected this success.
While World Cup semi-finals unfortunately remained elusive (despite the fact that Ireland topped their pool for the first time in 2011, and again in 2015), it was in the Six Nations and in November that Ireland shone. After one Six Nations championship in 28 years, Ireland under Joe Schmidt won three Championships in five years, including the 2018 Grand Slam. Add to that a series win in Australia, multiple wins over South Africa and Australia in Ireland, and the first ever wins against New Zealand and it really was an incredible few years.
Conor Murray was at the forefront of all the Irish success, arriving in time for the 2011 World Cup, and remaining as Ireland's first choice scrum-half since then. As well as with his success for Ireland, he was a try scoring test scrum-half for the Lions in their series draw in New Zealand back in 2017. He's won 5 Test caps over the last two tours.
Brian O'Driscoll was a somewhat more surprising choice. One of the world players of the previous decade, O'Driscoll was still at the top of his game early in the 2010s, before finishing up as a Six Nations champion in 2014. Over the course of the decade, O'Driscoll became the leading try scorer in Five/Six Nations history, Ireland's leading cap winner and try scorer. As well as that, he went on his fourth Lions tour in 2013, and won two Heineken Cups with Leinster.
2018 World Player of the year Johnny Sexton missed out to New Zealand legend Dan Carter, while Paul O'Connell was behind All Black pair Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock in the second row. Overall, there was seven New Zealand players named, reflecting their dominance of a decade that saw them win two World Cups. George North on the right wing and Sergio Parisse at Number 8 are the only other two Six Nations players selected. England and France are not represented.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) December 7, 2020
Meanwhile, an Irish try was also named as the official try of the decade. Jamie Heaslip's epic try against Italy in a move launched from a 22 drop out.
In some of the other awards on the night, former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was named Men's 15s Player of the Decade while France's Jessy Trémouliere was Women's 15s Player of the Decade.