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England v Ireland: How Schmidt's Six Nations side sizes up to heroes of '09


Comparing teams is never easy but on the day when Ireland’s class of 2018 can join a very elite club of Grand Slam champions, former Irish international Alan Quinlan measures them against the vintage of 2009.

2009 team

15 Rob Kearney

The house always felt secure when the consistent Louth man was on duty. His ability under the high ball was such an asset to the side, in attack and defence, while his booming left boot was a great territory-earner. Despite his relative tender years he was a very important character in the group.

Club: Leinster; Age: 22;

Height: 6ft 2in; Weight: 14st 2lb

Ireland debut: 2007; Caps: 15

Rating: 8

14 Tommy Bowe

A big, physical winger who was a threat every time he got on the ball. His athleticism and finishing ability made him a go-to man in 2009; he made a lot of big breaks and scored a number of important tries. Another really dependable guy when the ball was coming out of the sky.

Club: Ulster; Age: 25;

Height: 6ft 3in; Weight:15st 2lbs;

Ireland debut: 2004; Caps: 22

Rating: 8

13 Brian O'Driscoll

Beyond his obvious skills, the mental strength of 'Drico' was so important to that team. A real leader who had massive belief in himself and those around him. He had experienced a number of disappointments with Ireland yet his great expectations never wavered. He did something positive pretty much every time he touched the ball and was rock-solid defensively.

Club: Leinster; Age: 30;

Height: 5ft 10in; Weight 14st 13lbs;

Ireland debut: 1999; Caps: 92

Rating: 10

12 Gordon D'Arcy

He had such a great understanding with O'Driscoll, and was the unheralded one of that midfield partnership as Drico had more opportunities to get in the wider channels. D'Arcy wasn't the biggest guy in the world but his footwork in tight spaces was so important to get Ireland moving forward and out of tricky positions. A great link man.

Club: Leinster; Age: 29;

Height: 5ft 11in; Weight: 14st 2lbs;

Ireland debut: 1999; Caps: 40

Rating: 8

11 Luke Fitzgerald

Possessed remarkable game intelligence for such a young player. He was physical when he needed to be and dangerous when he got on the ball. A superb footballer who read things as well as anyone and was a real threat going forward off the left wing. Mature beyond his years.

Club: Leinster; Age: 21;

Height: 6ft 1 in; Weight: 14st 7lbs;

Ireland debut: 2006; Caps: 11

Rating: 8

10 Ronan O'Gara

Had character and self-belief in abundance and gave great assurance to those around him from that pivotal No.10 spot. Always vocal and commanded huge respect from his team-mates. A big character who made great decisions under pressure. So accurate when he needed to put the ball in behind the opposition. His ability to manage games was vital.

Club: Munster; Age: 32;

Height: 6ft; Weight: 13st 1lb;

Ireland debut: 2000; Caps: 91

Rating: 9

9 Tomas O'Leary

A great all-round rugby player whose athleticism was a big asset in attack and defence. An outstanding cover tackler who was also a real threat in open play if he got just a sniff of a gap. He complemented the guys outside him very well. He may not have had the same zip in his pass as Peter Stringer but he was an excellent operator.

Club: Munster; Age: 25;

Height: 5ft 11in; Weight: 13st 5lbs;

Ireland debut: 2007; Caps: 7

Rating: 8

1 Marcus Horan

Brought great experience to the pack and never let the side down. Another great footballer who often found himself in wider areas, and was well able to make line breaks, which was rare for a prop in those days. A very consistent performer.

Club: Munster; Age: 31;

Height: 6ft 1in; Weight: 16st 7lbs;

Ireland debut: 2000; Caps: 65

Rating: 8

2 Jerry Flannery

A brilliant lineout thrower and a livewire around the field. He sparked that front-row into life with his enthusiasm for the game. His ability to find his man in the lineout was second to none, helped of course by his familiarity with the likes of Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.

Club: Munster; Age: 30;

Height: 5ft 11in; Weight: 16st 1lb

Ireland debut: 2005; Caps 30

Rating: 8

3 John Hayes

Probably the unsung hero of the 2009 team. He didn't get or seek the limelight yet was probably the most important player in that side in terms of the mountain of unselfish work he got through in every game. His scrummaging, tackling and lifting in the lineout were all vital in terms of making that team tick.

Club: Munster; Age: 35;

Height: 6ft 4in; Weight: 19st 10lbs;

Ireland debut: 2000; Caps: 93

Rating: 8

4 Donncha O'Callaghan

He was probably better without the ball than with it; his work-rate and energy around the field was always something to behold. He could also make the hard yards around the tight areas when needed and he was a huge presence at the front of that lineout - a great operator in the set-piece.

Club: Munster; Age: 29;

Height: 6ft 6in; Weight: 17st 5lbs;

Ireland debut: 2003; Caps: 54

Rating: 8

5 Paul O'Connell

Just like Drico, he had such presence on the field. He led by example and set the standard for everyone else in terms of workload. Like ROG, he had a great ability to make the right call at the right time. Another superb lineout operator, in attack and defence. The heartbeat of the pack.

Club: Munster; Age: 29;

Height: 6ft 6in; Weight: 17st 7lbs

Ireland debut: 2002; Caps: 61

Rating: 10

6 Stephen Ferris

Ferris's ball-carrying was outstanding and he was such a physical guy. He was a monster in the tackle and was probably the strongest player, pound for pound, in that squad. He could put guys on their backside and give his team real impetus going forward.

Club: Ulster; Age: 23;

Height: 6ft 4in; Weight: 17st 2lbs;

Ireland debut: 2006; Caps: 12

Rating: 8

7 David Wallace

'Wally' was such a brilliant ball carrier and an incredible athlete. He was so quick for a back-rower, and covered so much ground, week after week. He was even able to make ground off slow ball, thanks largely to his excellent footwork, and he added great balance to what was a superb back-row.

Club: Munster; Age: 32;

Height: 6ft 2in; Weight: 16st 3lbs;

Ireland debut: 2000; Caps: 54

Rating: 9

8 Jamie Heaslip

Heaslip's ball-carrying ability was an obvious asset but he also brought leadership to the side from a very early stage in his career. He made a great overall contribution to the team and brought real game intelligence to the set-up. Another astute decision-maker, particularly working with the half-backs off the back of the scrum.

Club: Leinster; Age: 25;

Height: 6ft 4in; Weight: 17st 2lbs;

Ireland debut: 2006; Caps: 17

Rating: 8

Off The Bench

Denis Leamy made a huge impact in the Irish jersey for years, Rory Best was neck and neck with Flannery, and Peter Stringer was also a vital part of that side. The scrum-half could increase the tempo when introduced and at that time was probably the best passer in the world. It was a strong bench but didn't have the same ability to change the game as their counterparts in the 2018 team.

Rating: 7


The intelligence of Declan Kidney to organise the meeting in Enfield the Christmas before the tournament spoke volumes. The open forum was a great way to give extra responsibility to the players. Kidney also deserves great credit for assembling such a well-balanced coaching unit, as Les Kiss, Gert Smal and Alan Gaffney introduced new ideas and made telling contributions.

Rating: 8

Total: 141

2018 team

15 Rob Kearney

He may not make the same impact that he once did but his experience has become a valuable asset behind a number of centres and wingers who have been finding their feet at international level. He is still an incredibly solid full-back who continues to excel in the air. A proven player for the big occasion.

Club: Leinster; Age: 31

Height: 6ft 2in; Weight: 14st 13lbs

Ireland debut: 2007; Caps: 82

Rating: 8

14 Keith Earls

The Munster man is having an Indian summer in his career which is quite remarkable for a 30-year-old winger. He has taken his game to a new level and his finishing ability is second to none. Earls has been his own worst critic at times and he seems to have developed a new level of self-belief and confidence. He is up there alongside the best wingers in the world right now.

Club: Munster; Age: 30;

Height: 5ft 10in; Weight: 13st 8lbs;

Ireland debut: 2008; Caps: 66

Rating: 8

13 Garry Ringrose

An incredible natural talent who, remarkably, can only get even better. He brings so much to the Irish attack when he is on the field, as shown against Scotland, and he makes defenders second guess themselves. His ability with ball in hand makes him such a valuable addition to the side. Doesn't shirk his defensive duties either.

Club: Leinster; Age: 23;

Height: 6ft 1 in; Weight: 14st 11lbs;

Ireland debut: 2016; Caps: 12

Rating: 8

12 Bundee Aki

The demands on him in the Irish set-up are very different to what is required at Connacht, but he has adjusted to the role very well. For someone who has such flair on the ball he has shown that he can be very disciplined in the No.12 shirt. He always puts his hand up to carry the ball, even around the fringe areas, where he has been so powerful and, of course, effective.

Club: Connacht; Age: 27;

Height: 6ft; Weight: 15st 12lbs;

Ireland debut: 2017; Caps: 6

Rating: 8

11 Jacob Stockdale

The big plus for Stockdale is his stunning strike-rate which is up there with any winger in international rugby. His ability to score tries and be in the right place at the right time is extraordinary. A big man with great pace and footwork. Questions remain around his defensive positioning at times but he is only going to improve in that department.

Club: Ulster; Age: 21;

Height: 6ft 3in; Weight 16st

Ireland debut: 2017; Caps: 8

Rating: 8

10 Jonathan Sexton

He possesses a similar temperament to O'Gara. A real winner who never takes a backwards step and makes a serious amount of tackles for a No.10. A phenomenal operator with an all-round game that few out-halves can match. Probably ranks alongside Beauden Barrett as the best players in the world in that pivotal position.

Club: Leinster; Age: 32;

Height: 6ft 2in; Weight: 14st 6lbs;

Ireland debut: 2009; Caps: 72

Rating: 9

9 Conor Murray

Murray, like his half-back partner, is such an important member of the current Irish side. His ability to make the right decisions under pressure is so important. He scores vital tries, sets the tempo and his accurate, consistent delivery is key to everything that Ireland do. Probably the best scrum-half in the world; a valuable contributor all over the field.

Club: Munster; Age: 28;

Height: 6ft 2in; Weight: 14st 11lb

Ireland debut: 2011;Caps: 63

Rating: 9

1 Cian Healy

He is having a renaissance after an injury-plagued few years. He has shown remarkable resilience to become such an effective international front-rower again. The consistency in his scrummaging and his explosiveness when carrying the ball are huge assets.

Club: Leinster; Age: 30;

Height: 6ft 1in; Weight: 18st 1lb;

Ireland debut: 2009; Caps: 77

Rating: 8

2 Rory Best

He might not have the same impact he once did but he is a superb leader who has great presence on the field. He still makes a lot of carries and tackles, is a real pest at the breakdown for the opposition, and a superb scrummager. His lineout throwing wobbled last week but he is generally a consistent performer in every facet of the game.

Club: Ulster; Age: 35;

Height: 5ft 11in; Weight: 16st 7lbs;

Ireland debut: 2006; Caps: 110

Rating: 8

3 Tadhg Furlong

To have a tighthead prop who can give passes like an out-half and still be so strong around the field is so rare. He is the complete, modern-day tighthead. He has shown time and again with Leinster, Ireland and the Lions that he is a world-class operator.

Club: Leinster; Age: 25;

Height: 6ft 1in; Weight: 19st 11lbs;

Ireland debut: 2015; Caps: 22

Rating: 9

4 James Ryan

Provides great work-rate and energy in an area of the field we feared we lacked depth until recently. He is part of the new breed coming through and he continues to produce the goods in the engine room despite his tender years. An excellent ball-carrying option who can become something really special.

Club: Leinster; Age: 21;

Height: 6ft 8in; Weight: 17st;

Ireland debut: 2017; Caps: 7

Rating: 8

5 Iain Henderson

The Ulsterman is another workhorse who loves the physical stuff. Henderson also has excellent skills to match his brute force and offers versatility as a blindside option. Has been a key part of the current set-up whether from the start or from the bench. Proved last year he excels on the big stage.

Club: Ulster; Age: 26;

Height: 6ft 7in; Weight: 18st 5lbs

Ireland debut: 2012; Caps: 37

Rating: 8

6 Peter O'Mahony

He brings the doggedness that you want your blindside flanker to have. He's in your face, he's aggressive. He's outstanding on the ground and is probably the best back-row lineout operator in the world. Another natural leader who has high expectations of himself and everyone else around him.

Club: Munster; Age: 28;

Height: 6ft 3in; Weight: 16st 11lbs;

Ireland debut: 20012; Caps: 46

Rating: 8

7 Dan Leavy

A modern No.7 who is on the go all the time. Traditionally we would have thought the openside needs to focus on foraging on the ground but Leavy can do it all. He's athletic and tough, and he is a real fighter. He looks at home in international rugby and is another who can reach even greater heights.

Club: Leinster; Age: 23;

Height: 6ft 3in; Weight: 16st 9lbs;

Ireland debut: 2016; Caps: 8

Rating: 8

8 CJ Stander

He probably averages 20 carries a game no matter what team he plays for. He turns up time after time and defensively has improved so much. His reading of the game has come on in leaps and bounds which complements his natural power on the ball. Has been the most consistent player for Ireland since he made his debut.

Club: Munster; Age: 27

Height: 6ft 1in; Weight: 17st 13lbs

Ireland debut: 2016; Caps: 22

Rating: 8

Off The Bench

There is no shortage of players who can make an impact when you consider Joe Schmidt has the likes of Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, and Jordi Murphy in reserve. Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour ensure there is no shortage of X-factor in the match-day 23.

Rating: 9


There is always going to be room for improvement but the most important thing is results. The players clearly love playing for Schmidt and working with his wider coaching staff. His attention to detail is obviously renowned at this stage but the Kiwi is also innovative in terms of designing strike plays. He has built a winning culture and depth in the Irish squad like we have never seen before.

Rating: 9

Total: 141

Final score

Team of 09 141 - 141 Team of 18

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