Here is our collection of inspirational, moving, hilarious or controversial quotes from Irish rugby.
We have quotes from some of the greatest players to pull on a green jersey. And we’ve also got some eyebrow-raising insults from overseas!
Quotes From Ireland Rugby Coaches
Let’s start with our favorite quote from any rugby coach ever.
Brian Ashton taking full responsibility for a loss
The year was 1998 and Brian Ashton was Ireland’s coach.
Ashton had been lured from Bath the year before but never really settled into the job or in Dublin. Ireland entered into the Five Nations on a bad streak and promptly lost the opening match against Scotland.
Ashton addressed the cameras in the manner of a punter who wandered into the grounds to see what was going on.
I don’t know whose game plan that was out there but it wasn’t mine.
Truly a man with one foot out the door. The IRFU duly nudged the other one out. That was Ashton’s last match in charge of Ireland.
He was replaced by Warren Gatland, who was coaching Connacht. We’ll get back to Gatland later.
When Ireland played the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016, the men in green were on a 111 winless streak. There was a draw in there somewhere.
Ireland’s coach was New Zealander Joe Schmidt. When Ireland took a historic victory, the Kiwi journalists asked Schmidt what his mother would say.
He revealed that he phoned her after the match.
She thought my apology was false and she was right!
Eddie O’Sullivan was known for some odd phrases that he still trots out in punditry. “You can’t unring a bell” comes to mind.
But our favorite Eddie-ism is rarely quoted because it’s not so family-friendly. O’Sullivan was berating his forwards in a training session. He didn’t like how they were protecting rucks.
The Irish scrumhalf at the time was the diminutive Peter Stringer. His coach yelled at the forwards:
“Stringer may as well be looking for a Mars bar in a bucket of s**t.“
A memorable image!
Quotes From Irish Rugby Captains
Let’s start with some manic aggression.
Did you put the fear of God into anyone?
Paul O’Connell captained both Ireland and the Lions.
He changed his leadership style over time, but his early years were fire and brimstone.
In 2007, O’Connell captained Ireland against France in the Six Nations. He gave a rousing speech to his teammates in the dressing room. Here’s an iconic excerpt:
Listen to me now. I want them standing back thinking what the eff is going on here. Not for the first five minutes. Every effing minute of the game. Effing manic aggression.
Did you scare anyone?
Did you put the fear of God into anyone?
End of an era
It’s an unfortunate fact that many rugby players have their careers cut short through injury.
It doesn’t have to be a single dramatic event, like Paul O’Connell’s broken leg in the 2015 World Cup. Many players struggle for months with recurring strains until they hang up their boots.
For those who play into their thirties, they may experience a decline in form as the reactions and instincts start to slow down. This can result in being dropped from international selection when the player still feels they can contribute.
Brian O’Driscoll was one of the luckiest guys in this regard. He decided when to retire from international rugby. He finished his Ireland career with a Six Nations championship title.
This is what he said:
I feel a real sense of happiness. Not many people get to finish their career on their own terms and certainly not with high emotions like there have been today.
And this was the tweet after that final match against France (a narrow win in Paris).
Goodbye, old friend!
What does one of Ireland’s greatest players say to another of Ireland’s greatest players who is about to step down?
Paul O’Connell had taken over the Ireland captaincy by the time of Brian O’Driscoll’s final season. O’Connell was asked how he’d say goodbye to his former captain.
I might give him a hug, as long as it doesn’t get too awkward. We wouldn’t really be huggers really. It’s more of a high five or a handshake but we’ll see what happens.
Okay, that’s enough mush. Let’s back to proper rugby stuff.
No better man to look to than another (but intermittent) Ireland captain.
Will Greenwood on Peter O’Mahony
Peter O’Mahony had stand-out performances in the 2015 Six Nations.
The aggressive flanker was named by England commentator Will Greenwood on his team of the tournament.
This is what the great centre had to say about the Munsterman:
If all the wild horsemen of the apocalypse came around the corner, O’Mahony would charge straight back at them.
Okay, let’s close this section out on more mush. But great mush!
Rory Best on winning a Grand Slam
Three Irish captains have won a Grand Slam: Karl Mullen, Brian O’Driscoll, and Rory Best.
After Ireland’s Six Nations triumph of 2018, hooker Rory Best tried to express how that feels. He made a good fist of it!
Every kid grows up dreaming of playing for Ireland.
When you do that the next thing you want to do is win something for Ireland.
To win something as captain in that special green jersey is what dreams are made of.
Quotes By And About Irish Outhalves
Back in 1979, Mike Gibson was asked to do a write-up for a match programme. It appeared under the byline of C.M.H. Gibson.
C.M.H. is Cameron Michael Henderson, one of the greatest players to have graced the game.
Gibson had his tongue firmly in cheek when he wrote this about the Ireland flyhalf and goal kicker:
Tony Ward is the most important rugby player in Ireland.
His legs are far more important to his country than even those of Marlene Dietrich were to the film industry.
A little hairier, maybe, but a pair of absolute winners.
Mick the Kick
Mick English may not be a household name nowadays, but he has two quotes in this article.
His stint as Ireland’s outhalf was sandwiched between Jack Kyle and Mike Gibson – two of Irelands greatest rugby players of all time.
English was most unlike Kyle, Gibson, and Tony Ward. Mick liked to kick for touch. He kicked a lot. And then he kicked some more!
There was one time when he had the ball close to the opposition try line. The crowd roared in anticipation. And Mick kicked for touch.
He had no apologies when asked about this.
Yes, I know I was only a couple of yards from the goal line. But I was only a couple of feet from the touchline, so I considered my options and kicked for touch.
To be fair, this was a tale he liked to tell himself!
Paul O’Connell on Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton is famously tough on his teammates in practice sessions. He demands high standards from everybody.
This was very much appreciated by legendary Munster lock Paul O’Connell. This is how O’Connell described Sexton in his autobiography.
He encourages, criticizes, and demands more from everyone on every play. He’s hard on people but it makes us so much better.
At the end of training, he was smashing into guys, trying to counter-ruck in a non-contact session.
It is so encouraging when our outhalf is on the edge like that. Everyone can follow.
Johnny Sexton on Paul O’Connell
During the 2013 Lions tour to Australia, Sexton and O’Connell were among a few players who went down to the beach for some down time. English lock Geoff Parling was with them.
Some Aussie ladies challenged the Lions to a game of beach volleyball.
This is how Sexton describes it in his autobiography.
I watched a game of beach volleyball between the Lions and four local girls, two of whom had represented Australia at the London Olympics.
With Paulie involved, it became ridiculously competitive.
He was up front with Geoff Parling and nearly killed one of the poor girls with a spike.
A Famous Quote That Never Happened
Here’s a quote that you may have heard before about a Leicester Tigers player with a handy sidestep. The player had the glorious name of Phil Horrocks-Taylor.
The speaker once again is Mick English:
Every time I went to tackle him, Horrocks went one way, Taylor went the other, and all I got was the bloody hyphen.
The late Mick English was an entertaining after-dinner speaker and not unknown to embellish his stories. And this one was certainly embellished.
As a journalist pointed out to him, Ireland had never played against an English team with Horrocks-Taylor at outhalf. That simply drew a grin from Mick.
Everybody loves the Irish, don’t they? Umm, perhaps not in the world of rugby.
About Lansdowne Road
We’ll start with the most benign of these comments. Wales turned up at the old Lansdowne Road stadium in the 1984 Five Nations tournament. (It’s since been renamed as the Aviva Stadium).
There was a wind blowing and the uneven walls of the stadium made it unpredictable. Flyhalves and hookers like to look at the flags on the touchline to gauge which way the wind was blowing.
This is what hooker Mike Watkins had to say:
I didn’t know what was going on at the start in the swirling wind. The flags were all pointing in different directions and I thought the Irish had starched them just to fool us.
France on Ireland
Back in 2011, the giant French club Toulon was owned by millionaire Mourad Boudjellal.
The mogul was annoyed with how his team had been drawn in the European Cup. He felt that Irish teams had better luck.
But it seems that Mourad thought it might not be luck after all. At the time, the tournament organizers had their HQ in Ireland. Most Irish people were completely unaware of this.
They learned about it when Mourad went on a rant about fixed draws.
Is it a coincidence ERC headquarters are to be found in Dublin?
But Mourad is a club coach. He doesn’t represent a nation. Surely, national coaches wouldn’t be so aggressive about a sporting rival?
Warren Gatland on Welsh-Irish rivalry
When Warren Gatland’s Wales were preparing to play Ireland in the 2009 Six Nations, he may still have been sore about the manner in which he was dismissed from the Ireland gig.
Gatland decided to explain to journalists why the Welsh players wanted to win the game:
Of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most and they are all very motivated to be playing on Saturday.
It’s fair to say that the Welsh players were as bemused by this statement as anyone. Presumably, one of them reminded their Kiwi coach that England was always their bogeyman.
The Irish players shrugged their shoulders and went on to win the match and the Grand Slam (to be fair, it was a bit of a nail-biter).
Eddie Jones on how much he loves the delightful Irish
In 2017, England and Eddie Jones were on a winning streak that was derailed by Ireland.
England were going for a Grand Slam in the final match of the Six Nations but were turned over by the men in green.
Later that year, coach Eddie Jones was giving an after-dinner speech to a trucking company. He sought to reassure them that his team would get back to winning ways.
This is what he had to say:
We’ve played 23 Tests and we’ve only lost one Test to the scummy Irish.
I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry.
We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.
He also had some choice comments about the Welsh in the same speech. You can see them in our round-up of the best quotes of Welsh rugby.
When this tour-de-force oration was leaked, Jones and the RFU had to issue apologies.
Ireland duly thumped England in the 2018 Six Nations to take the Grand Slam.
More About Lansdowne Road (Aviva Stadium)
Ballsbridge seems to have its own ecosystem. I’ve been at several Winter matches in the Aviva Stadium over the years when a heavy fog descended onto the field before the match.
What’s that like for the players? Jamie Heaslip describes playing South Africa in 2009 in his autobiography:
It was so dense that it wasn’t possible at times to see from one touch-line to the other let alone the stands on the far side.
It was weird, knowing massive crowds were in the stands, being able to hear them when they roared, but not being able to see them.
More Quotes From The World Of Rugby
If you want to stick to the Irish theme, check out our collection of the best Irish rugby jokes.
If you want more real-life quotes from around the world, check out these collections: