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Last Men Standing - the Irish rugby team from their final game of the amateur era

An emphatic defeat to France was the last outing for Ireland in the amateur game.

This is part of The42′s Class of 95 series, a week-long examination of professional rugby in Ireland.

Olivier Merle is tackled by Terry Kingston Ireland's Terry Kingston tackles France's Olivier Merle in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

ON 10 JUNE 1995, Ireland bowed out of the Rugby World Cup at Kings Park Stadium in Durban.

It wasn’t a narrow or heroic exit. The 36-12 quarter-final beating at the hands of France was emphatic.

There was no shortage of criticism heaped upon the Irish side after the game.

SindoJune 11 1995 The Sunday Independent, 11 June 1995 Source: Irish News Archive

CorkExaminer1995 The Cork Examiner, 12 July 1995 Source: Irish News Archive

IrishIndo 1995 The Irish Independent, 12 June 1995 Source: Irish News Archive

The upshot of the defeat was it represented Ireland’s departure from the tournament in South Africa.

But on a wider scale, the Irish team that took to the field in that game stands out in the country’s rugby history.

With the era of professionalism dawning in August 1995, this was the last amateur side to represent Ireland.

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15. Conor O’Shea

Born in Limerick, the full-back won 35 caps for Ireland in total with his last appearance coming in February 2000 against England. At club level he switched to London Irish before his club career ended through injury in 2000.

Since then he’s remained in rugby. He was Director of Rugby with London Irish before moving to the same post in 2009 with Harlequins, guiding them to the European Challenge Cup in 2011 and Aviva Premiership in 2012.

In March last year he was appointed the head coach of Italy and is getting set for his first Six Nations campaign with the Azzuri.

Conor O'Shea 6/3/1999 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

14. Darragh O’Mahony

The Cork native only won four caps for Ireland and indeed the France match was his only appearance in the 1995 World Cup. His last Irish appearance came at Lansdowne Road against Romania in November 1998.

His career saw him play for both Munster and Leinster before he moved across the water to play for English Premiership clubs Bedford Blues and Saracens. He finished off his rugby career in 2006 with Cork side Dolphin and returned to work in banking.

Darragh O'Mahoney Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

13. Brendan Mullin

The loss to France in South Africa proved to be Mullin’s final cap as his international career concluded before professionalism commenced. The centre won 55 caps for Ireland.

He played club rugby for Blackrock College, represented Ireland in three World Cups (1987, 1991 and 1995) while also touring Australia with the Lions in 1989.

BrendanMullin Source: INPHO

12. Jonathan Bell

The Belfast native won 36 caps for his country, making his debut in 1994 against Australia before finishing up in 2003 against Italy.

Won the European Cup in 1999 with Ulster and claimed the man-of-the-match award in that final against French outfit Colomiers. He went on to teach Campbell College in Belfast before becoming Elite Player Development Officer at the Ulster Rugby Academy.

JonathanBell Source: INPHO

11. Simon Geoghegan

The English-born winger with Galway family roots, first lined out for Ireland in 1991. He claimed 37 international caps and bagged 11 tries, with his most famous arriving in Twickenham against England in 1994.

He scored one try during the 1995 World Cup against Japan but his Ireland career ended the following March, with his final cap coming in the defeat against England.

Simon Geoghegan 20/2/1993 Source: ©INPHO

10. Eric Elwood

The out-half scored all 12 of Ireland’s points in that final amateur game, when he kicked four penalties against France. The Galwegian won 35 caps for Ireland, starting out against Wales in 1993 and finishing up against Romania in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Synonymous with Connacht rugby, Elwood continued to play for the province before going into coaching after his retirement in 2005. In 2010 he became Connacht’s head coach, a role he held until 2013.

EricElwood Source: INPHO

9. Niall Hogan

The scrum-half won 13 caps for Ireland. He only made his debut for Ireland just before the 1995 Rugby World Cup, in that year’s Five Nations. He scored a try in South Africa in the pool game against Japan.

Also in 1995, Hogan graduated from the RCSI with a degree in medicine. Nowadays he works as an orthopaedic surgeon in Dublin.

NiallHogan

1. Nick Popplewell

The prop won 48 caps during his time with Ireland, his last appearance coming in 1998 against France. He was also part of the Lions touring party to New Zealand in 1993. Popplewell played at club level in Ireland for Gorey and Greystones before then enjoying a stint with the Newcastle Falcons.

NickPopplewell Source: INPHO

2. Terry Kingston

The Cork native lined out for Ireland on 30 occasions, starting off in the 1987 Rugby World Cup against Wales in Wellington and he finished off in the Parc des Princes against France in 1996. He played in three Rugby World Cups in total.

Kingston lined out at club level for Dolphin and captained Munster for their famous 1992 win over Australia.

TerryKingston

3. Gary Halpin

The Dubliner only made 11 appearances for Ireland, the France match in Durban would prove to be the final act of his international career. At club level he had spells in England with London Irish and Harlequins.

Away from rugby, Halpin, who also represented Ireland in the 1987 World Athletics Championship in the hammer throw. He has since been involved in schools rugby coaching in Reading in England.

GaryHalpin Source: INPHO

4. Gabriel Fulcher

20 caps for Ireland for the Aldershot-born player. He made his debut against Australia in 1994 and finished up against South Africa in 1998. Since retiring Fulcher moved into coaching positions with St Mary’s College and Belvedere College in Dubln.

He also had a role with the Ireland U18′s and last May was appointed as Head Coach of Canadian outfit BC Bears.

GabrielFulcher Source: INPHO

5. Neil Francis

Francis won 36 caps during his days for Ireland and was another to feature in three World Cups for his country, making 10 appearances in that competition. His international career did not continue for long after the 1995 Rugby World Cup, his final outing was against Scotland in January 1996.

He had spells in club rugby with Blackrock College, London Irish and Old Belvedere. Since retiring he has become a well-known rugby pundit and is currently a columnist for the Irish Independent, as well as featuring regularly on Today FM.

NeilFrancis Source: INPHO

6. Denis McBride

Born in Belfast, McBride first dipped his toes into international waters with Ireland against Wales in 1988 before his final outing came against Scotland in 1997. In total he played 32 times for Ireland with the 1995 tournament in South Africa representing his total World Cup appearances. At club level McBride played for Malone.

DenisMcBride Source: INPHO

7. David Corkery

The Cork man claimed 27 caps for Ireland between 1994 and 1999. The flanker bagged two tries in the 1995 Rugby World Cup against New Zealand and Japan. He featured for Cork Constitution and Bristol at club level.

He endured an injury-plagued career, something he spoke at length about with The42′s Eoin O’Callaghan.

DavidCorkery Source: INPHO

8. Paddy Johns

The Portadown native was vastly experienced, amassing 57 caps during his time with Ireland. He finished up in 2000 against Japan, having started out a decade earlier against Argentina at Lansdowne Road. At club level, he had spells with Dungannon and Saracens.

PaddyJohns Source: INPHO

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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