Sport Rugby

Tuesday 28 March 2017

The overseas Ireland XV: The best team of players who left to ply their trade abroad

Ireland has exported some of its greatest rugby talent in the past
Ireland has exported some of its greatest rugby talent in the past
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

With Ian Madigan on his way to the Top 14 and Marty Moore swapping Leinster for Wasps, we have decided to make a starting XV from the best Irish players to play professionally abroad.

Leinster and Ireland prop Cian Healy is also reportedly weighing up an offer to join the Worcester Warriors.

Here are the Irish players who left to ply their trade abroad and flourished.

15. Geordan Murphy

Enjoyed a distinguished 16-year career at the Leicester Tigers. Playing in four Heineken Cup Finals for Leicester, with winners’ medals in 2001 and 2002, Murphy also graced a record eight Premiership finals.

The Kildare man also earned 74 caps for Ireland.

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14. Gavin Duffy

Duffy spent three years at Harlequins and scored a try as the London side secured victory in the European Challenge Cup in 2004.

He returned to Connacht in late 2006 and earned 11 Ireland caps throughout his career.

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13. Tommy Bowe

The Monaghan native joined the Ospreys in 2008 and was regularly deployed at outside centre for the Welsh side.

He was the top tryscorer in the Magner's League in his first season in the club. He returned to Ulster at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.

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12. JJ Hanrahan

Hanrahan left Munster last summer having found himself playing second fiddle to Ian Keatley.

He has been competing with Stephen Myler for a place in the Northampton starting XV and has been impressing with his place-kicking and ability to take the ball to the line.

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11. Brian Carney

The Clongowes Wood alumnus forged a career in rugby league with the Wigan Warriors and Newcastle Knights in Australia before joining Munster in 2007. He scored tries and his Munster and Ireland debuts and was picked for Ireland's ill-fated 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Injury forced him to miss Munster's Heineken Cup triumph in 2008 and in 2009 he returned to rugby league.

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10. Jonathan Sexton

Ireland's current number one flyhalf left Leinster in 2013 after failing to negotiate a new contract with the IRFU and joined big-spending Racing Metro in the Top 14.

His two-year stint in the French capital was largely unsuccessful and he spent three months on the sidelines in his final season due to repeated head injuries.

He rejoined Leinster this seaosn.

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9. Eoin Reddan

A player who undoubtedly benefited from quitting these shores. Reddan's career took off at Wasps after his move in 2005.

He scored a try in Wasps 2007 Heineken Cup final victory, and added a Premiership title the following season.

He rejoined Leinster in 2009.

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8. Eric Miller

Joined the Leicester Tigers in 1996 and his impressive performances earned him a call-up for the British and Irish Lions in 1997 and Ireland.

He returned to Leinster in 2000 and made 148 appearances for the province.

Miller retired with 48 Ireland caps to his name.

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7. Shane Jennings

The openside spent two years at the Leicester Tigers, winning the Premiership title in 2007.

He would return to win three Heineken Cup titles with Leinster.

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6. Trevor Brennan

The Kildare man became a cult hero at the Stade Ernest Wallon during his five years at Toulouse.

After joining in 2002, Brennan played in three consecutive European Cup finals, winning two (2003 and 2005).

He still resides in France and has a popular pub in the city.

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5. Leo Cullen

Joined Leicester alongside Jennings and made 56 appearances for the club, 15 as captain, and won the Premiership title in 2007 before returning to Leinster and enjoying huge success.

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4. Paul O'Connell

Hasn't pulled on a Toulon shirt in anger yet but is arguably the greatest Irish player to leave a province for a foreign adventure.

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3. Paul Wallace

The Cork native played with Saracens between 1996 and 2001 and during that time featured in all three Tests as the Lions were victorious in the 1997 tour of South Africa.

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2. Keith Wood

One of the greatest hookers the game has ever seen.

Inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame, Wood joined Harlequins in 1995 before returning to Munster to help guide them to the Heineken Cup final in 2000.

The all-time record tryscorer for a hooker in international rugby, ended his club career at Quins.

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1. Nick Popplewell

The loveable loosehead won a Premiership title with the Newcastle Falcons in 1998 as well as playing for a brief spell in Australia.

A firm favourite with Irish fans.

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