Ireland review after all teams qualified for play-offs

Ireland review after all teams qualified for play-offs

Ireland review after all teams qualified for play-offs

United Rugby Championship: Split with Leinster & Ulster, Connacht & Munster Credit: Alamy

United Rugby Championship: Split with Leinster & Ulster, Connacht & Munster Credit: Alamy

The 2022/23 United Rugby Championship (URC) season was a promising one for all Irish teams, who they represented strongly throughout.

All four provinces qualified for the European Cup, with Leinster and Ulster finishing as the top two sides in the tournament following the regular season.

The clubs’ performances are in line with Ireland’s Test-level success and underscore the health of rugby in the country.

The exciting aspect of all of this for Irish supporters is that their four teams could improve and enhance their seasons in the play-offs.


There was a response of epic proportions from the Irish giants after a trophyless season last season. This time, the team showed impressive class and fully deserves to finish the regular season as the leader of the table.

Leinster lost just one game all season as the Bulls inflicted the biggest defeat in the club’s history on a young side.

Sounds terrible, but the reality is that the team has left all their superstars in Dublin because the results have had no bearing on their position in the table. Leo Cullen and his team have earned the right to send an inexperienced group.

The team has superior depth in almost every position and is deadly with or without Grand Slam winners.

Every aspect of playing Leinster is laden with meticulous attention to detail, which more often than not translates into pure execution.

Ross Byrne grew tremendously mid-flight when veteran Johnny Sexton was unavailable. His form bought him time in an Ireland shirt, only making him a better player.

Rhys Ruddock has been a constant throughout the season as a leader and free forward. When available he was joined by superstars Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.

In the backline, Garry Ringrose looked particularly dangerous among the plethora of Irish internationals. Whichever position you consider, there is world-class talent. A 17 match winning streak does not happen by accident and Leinster deserve huge praise for their regular season efforts.

This season Leinster have completely dominated and sent a powerful reminder to the whole league of their exceptional quality. Cullen’s side have put themselves in a position where the only way to win the title this season is to find a way to beat Leinster in Dublin – a feat that will be ridiculously difficult.

Dublin men welcome Sharks to home for URC quarter-final.


The Belfast team had another good season in the URC and actually improved on the previous season, showing their class along the way.

Ulster claimed second place in the table towards the end of the campaign when the Stormers left the door open in the final two rounds of the regular season. They finished with nine more points this year, winning 12 of 18 games in a very satisfying effort.

Hooker Tom Stewart came into the picture and showed his try-scoring prowess by crossing for an impressive 16 tries in a record-breaking campaign. It’s a truly jaw-dropping effort, and the star could very well be in line for one of the season’s players.

The Ulster outfit have been rock solid all season, particularly in the set pieces where they have crushed most of their opponents. Duane Vermeulen contributed heavily as one of the leaders and finished with a season-high 13 turnovers.

Scrum-half John Cooney was consistent throughout and scored over a century of runs, while Jacob Stockdale’s return to form was a welcome sight for Ulster fans.

Consistency and stability are the keywords that describe a successful regular season for Ulster. Now the team has a great chance to reach the final and push for the trophy. The team faces rivals Connacht in the quarter-finals.


It was a roller coaster season for Munster, who initially struggled with the changes at the club but later found momentum.

Former director of rugby Johann van Graan departed at the end of last season with Graham Rowntree taking over the hot seat.

The beginning of Rowntree’s tenure was fraught with inconsistency and poor results. Things looked dire in the year-end international window, but a memorable win against South Africa ‘A’ proved to be a turning point for the Irish province.

From then on the team found their footing and grew in confidence. Munster finished fifth in the table but carried huge momentum into the play-offs after snapping the Stormers 19 match match in Cape Town and stealing a draw against the Sharks in the final round.

The team finished just one point clear of last year, but won fewer games along the way to once again secure European Cup qualification.

Number eight Gavin Coombes was absolutely huge for the Irish side, finishing with the most tries (10) and a staggering 188 carries, which was also a team record. Peter O’Mahony has proved typically invaluable to Munster, particularly at the rear of the season.

Joey Carbery however has moved down the pecking order with both the national side and Munster as Jack Crowley is now top 10 while Ben Healy made a very valuable contribution during his farewell season.

The return of RG Snyman has brought further dynamism, aggression and physicality to their pack. Springbok could be a key player in the postseason.

Munster and Rowntree will be happy with their season. There was always going to be a period of adjustment but now the team have found their rhythm and are moving into the crucial play-offs against Glasgow Warriors in the quarter-finals with great momentum.


The Galway club are arguably the most improved of all Irish clubs having finished in seventh place, earning them qualification for the European Cup.

Connacht finished four places higher this season with nine points to spare and another win as a late-season blowout secured them a post-season berth.

Their improved season was marked by several memorable victories, with a home win against the Sharks being one of their notable performances.

Scrum-half Caolin Blade had an excellent campaign scoring 11 tries and paving the way for Connacht, while Tom Farrell was the team leader in counter-attacks (11), defenders batted in (37) and successful carries (130).

Connacht’s lag in the table means all of Ireland’s squad have qualified for the European Cup and still have a chance to push for the title.

It will be a challenge for the Galway men as they take on high-flying Ulster in the quarter-finals.

TO KNOW MORE: United Rugby Championship: South African review for second season in the north

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