Matt Cassidy selects the Foreign XV, a team of Irish rugby stars that were born outside of the Emerald Isle.
Finally, the first week of November has arrived and that means only one thing for the rugby public; the Autumn Internationals. Joe Schmidt and his men start their countdown to the next World Cup in earnest with two mouth-watering clashes against South Africa and Australia and Georgia sandwiched in between. Schmidt has named his 37 man squad and as per usual with any Irish selection, it is earth shattering.
Two names, however, that are of keen interest to Irish supporters are that of Kiwis, Jared Payne and Nathan White. Payne is seen as one of the favourites to don the sacred 13 jersey whereas White would have been seen potentially as back up to Mike Ross, before the Connacht tighthead sustained an arm injury.
The aforementioned players have been singled out as they are qualifying for international honours through the three-year residency rule. This article is not discussing whether the residency period should be extended or scrapped (how national should national teams be?), but examining the men not born of this land who have represented the Irish rugby team and their impact.
The criteria for this selection is that the players must have been born abroad, qualifying for Ireland through the residency rule and the Grandparent rule and that they were educated outside of the island so the likes of Ronan O’Gara and Jamie Heaslip, who were born in the USA and Israel respectively, are not included.
This team is not a collection of the best overseas talent to play for Ireland but the most noteworthy.
1. Tom Court, born Australia, 32 Caps
Qualifying to play for Ireland through a grandfather from Limerick, Court came to the game of Union late as he did not start playing until university. The Brisbane born prop first made his debut for Ireland coming off the bench in their win over Italy in the 2009 Six Nations in Rome.
He was a fans’ favourite in Belfast for his bullish displays around the paddock. However, unfortunately for Court he was never able to transfer his provincial form to the national team and he will be best remembered for being absolutely minced in the scrum at Twickenham in 2012, whilst playing in the unfamiliar position of tighthead.
Other Mentions: Justin Fitzpatrick (Eng)
2. Richardt Strauss, born South Africa, 4 Caps
Earning his right to play for Ireland through the residency rule, the dynamic hooker has pulled on the green jersey four times thus far. Signed in 2009, Strauss struggled to displace the then incumbent, Bernard Jackman, from the number two jersey.
His barnstorming displays in the 2011 Heineken Cup led him to become a cult figure at the RDS and eventually international recognition. But injuries and a heart condition have curtailed the Bloemfontein man’s involvement with the national squad.
Other Mentions: Ross Nesdale (NZ), Rob Herring (SA)
3. Michael Bent, born New Zealand, 2 caps
Was there ever a more controversial Irish rugby selection? Bent was born in Hawera on New Zealand’s north island but is eligible for Ireland through a Grandmother. Having only played 11 Super Rugby matches for the Hurricanes, Bent was signed for Leinster in late October 2012.
As soon as he landed he was thrust into the Ireland squad for the internationals against the Springboks and Pumas that Autumn due to a propping crisis, despite never having set foot on the island and made two substitute appearances.
Although not disgracing himself in those two Tests, Bent has found life very tough at the Blues and subsequently has switched sides to the scrum to loosehead where he is not fairing much better.
Other Mentions: Declan Fitzpatrick (Eng), Rodney Ah You (NZ)
4. Dan Tuohy, born England, 9 caps
One of the key components to Ulster’s pack ever since he joined in 2009, Tuohy has been unlucky not to have won more caps for Ireland due to the competition for place and injury.
Qualifying through his Cashel born father, Tuohy made his debut against the All Blacks in 2010, where he scored a try with his first touch of the ball.
5. Mike McCarthy, born England, 15 Caps
Allowed to represent Ireland through heritage, McCarthy donned the Red Rose at the U21 World Championships before switching allegiances. He won his first cap at Murrayfield in a 2011 World Cup warm up. But McCarthy’s big break through at international level was when he was drafted to play against South Africa for an injured Paul O’Connell.
McCarthy made an impact on the match with some huge hits and his involvement in the Ireland set up earned him a lucrative move east from Connacht to Leinster.
6. Simon Easterby, born England, 65 Caps
Ireland’s current forward coach was born in Harrorgate before he declared for Ireland through his mother. He made his debut at Lansdowne Road in 2000 against Scotland. A dependable man at lineout and in defence, he was a regular in the Eddie O’Sullivan era when Ireland won three triple crowns. Easterby also won two Tests caps for the Lions on the 2005 tour to New Zealand.
Other Mentions: Robbie Diack (SA)
7. Andy Ward, born New Zealand, 28 caps
The man from Whangerai won his first cap in 1997 after he completed the obligatory residency period. He was instrumental in Ulster’s Heineken Cup in 1999 and was famously substituted in the quarter final that year to go see his wife give birth.
He played at the 1999 World Cup and won his last cap against France in the 2001 Six Nations. Ward is currently the Antrim Gaelic football team’s strength and conditioning coach.
8. Dion O’Cuinneagain, born South Africa, 19 caps
The Cape Town man could play either Flanker or at Number Eight. He captained South Africa’s schoolboy sevens team and also played for the Hong Kong sevens team in 1995. He made his debut for Ireland, courtesy of his father, against South Africa in 1998.
O’Cunneagain later captained Ireland on their tour to Australia in 1999 and at the 1999 World Cup. After retiring he returned to South Africa to work as a doctor with a stint as the coach of the South African sevens team.
9. Isaac Boss, born New Zealand, 20 caps
After representing New Zealand at the under 19 World Cup, the Tokorua man decided to declare for Ireland through his ancestry. Boss signed for Ulster in 2005 where he enjoyed five successful seasons for his attacking style.
He then moved to Leinster, garnering medals and caps in the process. He won his first cap against his home land in 2006. Arguably his finest moment in green was his intercept try at Croke Park in Ireland’s 43-13 victory over England in 2007.
Other Mentions: Guy Easterby (Eng), Kieron Marmion (Eng)
10. Brian Smith, born Australia, 9 caps
The former London Irish coach was one of the “he drank a pint of Guinness and therefore he’s eligible for Ireland brigade.” Smith’s eligibility was never confirmed but he did win nine Test caps for Ireland between 1989 and 1991. Prior to this he represented the Wallabies five times.
11. Simon Geoghegan, born England, 37 caps
Before the brilliance of Brian O’Driscoll, there was the genius, Simon Geoghegan. Described by legendary commentator, Bill McLaren, “Like a mad trout up a burn”, Geoghegan used to terrorise defences with his blistering turn of pace and mesmerising side step. The defining moment of his career came at Twickenham where he scored a famous try to secure Ireland a brilliant 13-12 win.
Apparently the wing cheekily remarked to Rory Underwood (whose mother was famous for going wild when her son got the ball), “hope your mother saw that one!”
Other Mentions: Patrick Duignan (Canada)
12. Rob Henderson, born England, 32 caps
The Dover man was an integral part of Ireland’s midfield in the early 2000s where he formed one half of the dynamic duo that was himself and O’Driscoll. He was the sledgehammer to O’Driscoll’s subtlety. Henderson was a strong as a bull who would burst through defences with his straight, hard running. But he also had a delicate touch as seen from his offload for O’Driscoll’s second try in Paris 2001.
The 32 times’ capped international played in all three tests for the Lions in 2001. The centre was eventually replaced by Gordon D’Arcy at number 12 but many of his opponents will never forget being ‘Hendoed’ especially Austin Healy.
13. Kevin Maggs, born England, 70 caps
Born in Bristol, Maggs was a man who never gave less than 100% to the Irish cause. He ran direct and tackled hard. Qualifying for Ireland through his Grandfather from Limerick, the centre made his debut in 1997 and was a part of the 2004 Triple Crown winning side. One of the centre’s finest moments was when he crashed through the All Blacks’ defensive line to score a fantastic try at Lansdowne Road.
Other Mentions: Mike Mullins (NZ)
14. Justin Bishop, born England, 25 Caps
The Crawley born winger, was a one club man as he spent his entire club career at London Irish. He decided to follow in his Grandfather’s footsteps and represent Ireland at international level. The wing scored eight tries and was a member of the 1999 Rugby World Cup squad.
Other Mentions: Matt Mostyn (Aus)
15. Jim Staples, born England, 26 caps
The fullback was fearless as he flung himself into every contact without heed for his own safety. Staples scored five tries and two conversions in his international career. He represented Ireland at the 1991 and 1995 World Cups.
Can you think of any player other overseas player who has represented Ireland?
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.
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