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Hakas, heroes and hard yards: The international rugby year in 23 pictures

It’s been emotional, 2015, to say the least.

IT WAS A year when Ireland claimed a second consecutive Six Nations title, but still couldn’t break their glass ceiling in the World Cup. It was the year Paul O’Connell waved goodbye to Test rugby just a few weeks before Dan Carter and Richie McCaw followed him out the door in the grandest style imaginable.

Here’s how it looked.


England kick off the Six Nations in style, but it’s a storm of controversy for Wales as George North suffers two sickening blows to the head

George North falls to the ground injured following a collision with Mike Brown Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Sexton returns from his enforced lay-off from concussion

Ireland begin the year as they end it, with injury problems at 10. While Sexton completes his enforced sabbatical and Paddy Jackson recovers from a broken elbow, Ian Keatley edges out Ian Madigan to steer Ireland to victory over Italy.

Jonathan Sexton and Mathieu Bastareaud after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Instantly restored to the line-up, Sexton is given a rough ride as usual from France, but comes through unscathed while helping Ireland put a second win on the board.

France continue to fall

Wales continue to bounce back from the opening night defeat with a powerful win over Les Bleus in Paris.

Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies celebrate at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Henshaw’s try keeps Ireland on course for a Grand Slam

Robbie Henshaw scores a try despite Alex Goode Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The win over England is Paul O’Connell’s last meaningful Test in Dublin. Obviously he was absolutely terrific

Paul O'Connell blocks down Ben Youngs Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Grand Slam dream was ended as Wales pulled clear of Ireland in a clinical first half in Cardiff

Ireland battled back to within seven and looked to have forced a draw when they rumbled over the try-line., but it wasn’t awarded and it wasn’t to be.

The Wales team celebrate Scott William's try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With four teams mathematically in with a shot of winning the Championship on a gripping final day, Wales were first out the gate and kept momentum up with a rampant 61 – 20 win over Italy

Liam Williams scores their second try of the game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

England and France tore it up in Twickenham too

The Six Nations showstopper ended 55 – 35 and a whopping seven tries to five.

Ben Youngs celebrates scoring his side's first try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was Ireland, though, who won the day – and a second straight Six Nations crown

A 10 – 40 win in Murrayfield paved the way for an anxious wait to see if France stop England getting the 27-point margin they needed to take the trophy home.

Ireland team with Rory Best and Paul O'Connell with the 6 Nations Trophy at the presentation Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland


Australia and David Pocock sent out a warning shot to New Zealand

But the All Blacks hit back a week later in Auckland, following up the 27 – 19 defeat in Sydney with a devastating 41 – 13 victory.

Kieran Read supported by Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO


Japan shocked the world (but mostly South Africa)

Karne Hesketh became a household name.

Britain Rugby WCup Source: AP/Press Association Images

Ireland started off the World Cup like a house on fire

Unfortunately, the two men below were among the absentees by the time the quarter-finals rolled around.

Jonathan Sexton runs in for their third try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

At least one family was divided by Wales’ World Cup triumph over England

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - England v Wales - Twickenham Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

A nation expected, but a principality delivered

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - England v Wales - Twickenham Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images

England’s fate was sealed by an awesome Australia side

Matt Giteau’s splashdown left him crumpled over with rib pain. Totally worth it.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - England v Australia - Twickenham Source: PA Wire/PA Images


Ireland beat France to avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-final, Paul O’Connell’s international career ended with a stretcher at half-time of his 108th cap

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool D - France v Ireland - Millennium Stadium Source: David Davies

The stand-ins were ‘plugged-in’, the homework was done, Ireland believed… but Argentina were an irresistible force

Argentina celebrate their third and decisive try as Dave Kearney and Rob Kearney look on Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Scotland’s brilliant World Cup ended in a dramatic, controversial and narrow quarter-final defeat to the Wallabies

Craig Joubert leaves the field at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The semi-finals brought the rain, but the final brought the perfect storm from New Zealand

Britain Rugby WCup New Zealand Australia

Sonny Bill Williams played his part off the bench, but handed his medal away post-match

Charlie Lines after Sonny Bill Williams gave him his winning medal Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Two of the greatest players ever to play the game hung up their All Black jerseys after a fitting finale

Britain Rugby WCup New Zealand Australia Source: Christophe Ena

But this success was about more than two men, it was about a culture, a movement and a never-ending pursuit of perfection

The All Blacks perform a Haka after winning Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Then the perfect rugby player died

Rest in peace, Jonah.

Nadene Lomu with her two sons Dhyreille and Brayley Source: Photosport/William Booth/INPHO

Craig Gilroy and Jordi Murphy on gym routines, sleep and personal best

Farewell to Paul O’Connell, the greatest leader Ireland ever had

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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