Ireland in the Five Nations of 1981


By Gary Watton
April 11 2013

This must go down as the most bizarre and maybe most downright cruel campaign that Ireland's national rugby team participated in. The pre-season favourites contrived to lose all four matches by the narrowest of margins, contests that could all have easily been won. Instead, it was France that accumulated another Grand Chelem. Ireland chose both Campbell and Ward in the same XV but remarkably these goal-kickers failed to deliver. Ireland also was once again on a recruitment drive, with the permanent loss of O'Donnell and Patterson through injuries sustained on the Lions tour of South Africa in 1980, while John Robbie would permanently relocate to South Africa later in 1981 for business reasons, in this pre-professional era. Ireland themselves went to apartheid South Africa and narrowly lost [a recurring theme] their two tests there. Time was fast running out on the captaincy of the admirable Fergus Slattery. For all the team's decent rugby, they had got into the very bad habit of losing, one that they seemingly could not shake off in seven test matches in 1981, including a subsequent home match against Australia. On another quirky note, this Ireland team almost certainly set a record by being the only whitewashed team to concede less points in the championship than any of the other four combatants: a candidate for weirdest statistic of the century!

IRELAND 13 FRANCE 19; 7th February; at Lansdowne Road

15 MacNeill [TRY]

14 Quinn

13 Irwin

12 McNaughton

11 McLennan

10 Campbell [3 penalties]

9 Robbie

8 Duggan

7 Slattery (c)

6 O'Driscoll

5 Foley

4 Keane

3 Fitzpatrick

2 Whelan

1 Orr

Hugo MacNeill's debut was ruined by another new recruit, as Guy Laporte recorded two drop goals for the French. 

WALES 9 IRELAND 8; 21st February; at Cardiff Arms Park

15 MacNeill [TRY]

14 Quinn

13 Irwin

12 Campbell

11 McLennan

10 Ward

9 Robbie

8 Duggan

7 Slattery (c) [TRY]

6 O'Driscoll

5 Spring

4 Keane

3 Fitzpatrick

2 Whelan

1 Orr

Ireland missed out on a rare win in Cardiff when debutant Gary Pearce's drop goal nullified Ireland's two first-half tries. 

IRELAND 6 ENGLAND 10; 7th March; at Lansdowne Road

15 MacNeill [drop goal]

14 Quinn

13 Irwin

12 Campbell [drop goal]

11 McLennan

10 Ward

9 Robbie

8 Duggan

7 Slattery (c)

6 O'Driscoll

5 Foley

4 Keane

3 Fitzpatrick

2 Whelan

1 Orr 

England recorded a try in each half to earn both points, having trailed 6-4 at the interval. Ward again scored no points!

SCOTLAND 10 IRELAND 9; 21st March; at Murrayfield

15 MacNeill

14 Hooks

13 Irwin [TRY]

12 Campbell [penalty, conversion]

11 McLennan

10 Ward

9 Robbie

8 Duggan

7 Slattery (c)

6 O'Driscoll

5 Foley

4 Keane

3 Fitzpatrick

2 Cantrell

1 Orr

Having trailed 10-0 at half time, Ollie Campbell eventually kicked Ireland's first successful penalty in three matches!

 

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