So Ireland are our 6 Nations Grand Slam Winners and confirmed as the Number One Team in The World. What else is interesting is their U20’s have also won the U20’s 6 Nations Grand Slam. They regularly train with and provide opposition for the Senior Squad, which has to be beneficial for experience and confidence.
Many are asking for Wales to look at the Irish Model and to do something similar with the governance of our game.
One thing i’ve been impressed with is the emergence of some Irish players with real quality. Players like Jamison Gibson-Park, James Lowe and Mack Hanson on the Wings. When i started to look at their backgrounds to see where they emerged from, though, I noticed they qualified for Ireland through residency! Gibson-Park actually played for the New Zealand Maoris as did James Lowe and Mack Hanson played for Australia Schoolboys! So i looked at the squad as a whole. Bundee Aki is of Samoan descent and born and bred in New Zealand. He played Super Rugby for The Chiefs and qualified to play for Ireland through residency. Finlay Bealham is an Australian with an Irish Grandmother born in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Rob Herring played for Western Province u21’s before someone discovered his Irish Grandfather. Kieran Treadwell is a South Londoner, from Sutton and Tom O’Toole, although born in Ireland, grew up in Australia and played for Queensland Reds Development team before being picked up by The Irish Exiles. I’m now thinking, Josh Van Der Flier is next on my list but although he is of Dutch descent he’s actually born in Wicklow and educated at The University of Dublin! That’s a fair chunk of players who have played their part in this year’s 6 Nations who aren’t Really Irish, in the true sense of the word!
There is no doubting the IRFU or indeed the regions, especially Connacht, have produced an identification network to hand pick and locate Irish Qualified players from around the World, as well as those who would be happy to move to Ireland with an option to qualify to play for Ireland on residency grounds. I remember when Connacht used to be the weakest of the 4 Irish Regions. Presumably it is this Region which has been strongly supported by the IRFU and it is they who have created this player identification process, where they can bring players from all parts of the world to come and live in a beautiful part of Ireland and play professionally for Connacht. There is clear evidence the Region has grown and become highly competitive both in The URC and in Europe. I suppose this is just another string to the bow of a brilliantly run, World Class Rugby Organisation. Good luck to them, i say.
3 Regions in Wales could be and should be the way forward, i feel. East Wales and West Wales, with North Wales receiving the same support from the WRU as Connacht, so they can develop into a Stronger, highly competitive Region in a similar way.