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From the Bangor Bulldozer to Baby BOD: 5 Irish young guns who broke out in 2015

The future of the back row – and the backline – looks bright in Ireland.

IT HAS BEEN a mixed year for Irish rugby. The national team collected their second straight Six Nations title before a disappointing World Cup exit while none of the provinces managed to add silverware to their respective trophy cabinets.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful for next year and we’ve picked out five in the form of a quintet of young players who developed over 2015 and are set to get even better in 2016.

Josh van der Flier

Josh Van Der Flier runs in for a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The first thing you notice about the 22-year-old flanker is his distinctive name but immediately after that it is his all-action style. The former Wesley College pupil is lightning quick for a number seven, is a strong ball carrier and is improving on the ground with every game.

Sean O’Brien hasn’t been at his best since the World Cup through a combination of injury and poor form, but van der Flier has deputised so well that he is pushing for a consistent starting role.

One of the most impressive aspects of van der Flier’s rise is how he stepped up during Leinster’s bleak November and fans province will be eagerly monitoring his improvement over the course of the season.

Jack O’Donoghue

The explosive Waterford flanker finished the 2014/15 season with some exceptional tries from distance and he has carried that form over into the current season. He might not be an out-and-out number seven, but O’Donoghue is so powerful that Anthony Foley has no choice but to pick him.

Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell have been missing through injury but the tag team of O’Donoghue and CJ Stander has matched the sidelined duo in terms of power output.


O’Donoghue has already become one of Munster’s most impressive ball carriers.

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Stuart McCloskey

The man who was nicknamed ‘The Bangor Bulldozer’ on this site this time last year has become an even bigger wrecking ball. The 23-year-old centre is over 6’3 and is pushing 17 stone, so he obviously doesn’t lack anything physically.

But what is most striking about watching the man from Bangor bulldoze is how fast and skillful he is too. He can exploit a gap and if he is tackled, he has the sleight of hand to find a team-mate with an offload.


Is it worth looking at McCloskey inside Robbie Henshaw in the Irish team in the near future?

Garry Ringrose

Garry Ringrose and Hadleigh Parkes Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ringrose hasn’t gotten the same amount of top level game time as the other three players here, but he has looked sharp, skillful and adventurous in every opportunity Leo Cullen has given him. He has been used mostly on the wing so far this season but there is no question that his long-term future is at outside centre, where Ringrose has the offloading ability and footwork to excel.

He also has that bit of magic in his repertoire of passing that makes the nickname ‘Baby BOD’ a formality in the years to come.

Denis Buckley

Denis Buckley Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Connacht loosehead is a solid scrummager and very dangerous in the looose. His performance against Munster at Thomond Park last spring was ominous as Buckley snaffled up a ridiculous amount of turnover ball for a prop.

What young players do you think had breakout years in 2015?

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