Friday 15 December 2017

My best Ireland XV never to beat All Blacks

Keith Wood. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Keith Wood. Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Sportsdesk

Aside from the 20 players on duty and called into action at the Soldier Field on Saturday last as well as Munster back in '78, only five other Irish players have managed to claim the All Black scalp whether for province, country or the Lions throughout illustrious playing careers.

In 1971, Sean Lynch, Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson were central to the ground-breaking Lions Test series-winning side (for the so far one and only time) in New Zealand. While six years later in Christchurch, Willie Duggan was the sole Irish representative on the victorious Lions side (13-9 in that second Test but with the other three going the other way).

At Wellington 16 years later, Nick Popplewell was on board when the Lions won 20-7 but the other two matches in the three-Test series went to the All Blacks.

So with beauty very much in the eye of the beholder, here is a possible best Irish XV over the last 50-plus years never to have beaten New Zealand - Hugo MacNeill (Leinster); Tom Grace (Leinster), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Simon Geoghegan (Connacht); Ollie Campbell (Leinster), Peter Stringer (Munster); Phil Orr (Leinster), Keith Wood (Munster, above), Ray McLoughlin (Connacht); Donal Lenihan (Munster), Paul O'Connell (Munster); John O'Driscoll (Connacht), Fergus Slattery (Leinster) and Ken Goodall (Ulster).

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