Mighty Aviva Stadium, the home of Irish rugby, rises from the red brick terrace houses of Beggar’s Bush on the banks of the River Dodder. Rugby has been played here since 1872 when Henry Dunlop and the Irish Champion Athletics Club laid out sports grounds here. The first representative match was played between Leinster and Ulster in 1876 and Ireland’s first international fixture against England in 1878 – making it the world’s oldest rugby union test venue. It is now home to the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the body that manages rugby union in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Today, almost 200,000 people are registered rugby players in Ireland – from club and school teams, through the intense rivalry of inter-county competition, to the national teams.
Hundreds of small clubs play rugby across Ireland, all welcoming of new members. These teams cater to local men and women who love the game, children with aspirations of national fame, and players with disabilities. Dublin’s teams play within the Leinster Rugby competition. Want to play? Find a club with their handy map.
There are four provincial rugby teams on the island of Ireland – Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht. They compete among themselves and with similar sized teams from the UK and Europe. Leinster’s home games are played in Dublin’s RDS Arena in Ballsbridge or the aforementioned Aviva Stadium.
Irish people follow GAA sports and football more avidly than they do rugby, but everyone seems to have an opinion on the international rugby teams. After crushing the New Zealand All-Blacks at an iconic match in November 2018, the senior men’s team cemented its place as the world’s second-best team, with aspirations to wrest first place from New Zealand in upcoming championships.
The senior women’s team won the 2013 and 2015 Six Nations Championships and came fourth at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup.