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Irish eyes are smiling

John GriffithsJanuary 9, 2015
Ireland were third in the IRB rankings in 2003 © Getty Images
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When did Ireland achieve their highest ranking on the IRB system? David Ross, Ireland

Ireland, currently third in the rankings, first held that position under Keith Wood's captaincy when World Rugby (formerly the IRB) officially launched their rankings on the eve of the RWC tournament in Australia in 2003. Only England (1st) and New Zealand (2nd) headed them during the best sequence of results in Ireland's rugby history.

With Eddie O'Sullivan as head coach and Mike Ford in charge of the defence (his first major post in Rugby Union), the Irish enjoyed 18 wins in 20 Tests between September 2002 and the end of October 2003.

Brian O'Driscoll led the side through the 2003 Six Nations in Wood's absence, but his team failed to win the Grand Slam, losing heavily to England in the clash of the season in Dublin in March. That defeat ended Ireland's record run of ten consecutive winning Tests.

A weakened side then toured Australia and the South Pacific Islands in June, losing to the Wallabies in Perth before enjoying an eight-match winning streak that took them through to the final pool match of the RWC and consolidated their third position in the rankings.

In their last pool game they were beaten by hosts, Australia, who leap-frogged them in the rankings and the next weekend they went out at the quarter-final stage, outmuscled 43-21 by France.

John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Writer Bio

John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.

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