Joe Schmidt used 30 players in Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign – here’s what you need to know about them

Meet Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Joe Schmidt used 30 players during Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign – some appeared in all five games and others in just one match.

We run through all of those who have helped Ireland to win only the third Grand Slam in their history…

Rory Best, 35 – The captain is one of only two players who appeared in Ireland’s Grand Slam decider of 2009. The 35-year-old hooker has won more than 100 caps, is an excellent lineout thrower and an impressive leader. Can he keep going until the 2019 World Cup?

Johnny Sexton, 32 – It was his late drop-goal against France, and the gutsy call to put in a cross-field kick in the lead-up to it, that set Ireland on this road to a Grand Slam. One of two vice-captains, he’s guided the team decisively from fly-half and drives the standards of the team.

Johnny Sexton drop-goal

Kicking king: Johnny Sexton drops the winning goal for Ireland in Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Peter O’Mahony, 28 – Ireland’s other vice-captain has played all the games of this campaign at blindside and is a workhorse not only in the contact area but at the lineout, where he won four throws against England.

Cian Healy, 30 – The loosehead first came into the Ireland team in the autumn of 2009 and was a regular in the seasons that followed before injuries struck. This season he’s got back to his physical best and taken the No 1 shirt back from Jack McGrath.

Tadhg Furlong, 25 – Has become such a crucial part of this team so quickly. It was the tighthead’s soft hands that helped to release Bundee Aki to set up a try for CJ Stander against England and he was rightly named Man of the Match at Twickenham. Strong at the set-piece, physical in contact and great handling skills – the modern prop.

Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

All smiles: James Ryan celebrates with Ireland fans at Twickenham (Getty Images)

James Ryan, 21 – Made his debut last June, his first start in November and is now arguably their first-choice lock. The 21-year-old is quickly excelling at Test level and is highly rated by the Ireland management.

Iain Henderson, 26 – The athletic and powerful Ulsterman has taken his impressive form on the Lions tour last year into this season. He missed the Wales game with a hamstring injury and was on the bench against Scotland, but was back in the started line-up against England. Provides a strong carrying option.

Dan Leavy, 23 – After coming off the bench against France for the injured Josh van der Flier, he has been a consistent performer for Ireland. He made 16 tackles against England – more than any other player.

CJ Stander, 27 – The leading ball-carrier in this championship, he’d made 72 in four games going into the England match and made another 23 at Twickenham. Incredible figures. He provides Ireland with front-foot ball.

Conor Murray, 28 – The scrum-half can potentially be described as Ireland’s most important player, simply because the players below him in the pecking order are not of the same quality. He’s a master box-kicker, a brilliant game manager and has slotted a couple of key penalties in this Six Nations.

Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Lethal: Jacob Stockdale scored seven tries in the Six Nations (Getty Images)

Jacob Stockdale, 21 – Seven tries in a single Six Nations is a tally that no other player has reached before. That statistic alone shows how much of an impact he has made. And his size gives him a unique presence in the Irish back-line.

Bundee Aki, 27 – Another who features high in the carries and defenders beaten charts, he also provides tremendous go-forward and it was his break that led to CJ Stander’s try against England.

Garry Ringrose, 23 – The third outside-centre Ireland used in this championship and arguably the most dangerous attacker. He’s been hampered by injuries this season but is a wonderful runner and punches above his weight in defence.

Keith Earls, 30 – He’s been playing Test rugby for a decade but is still only 30 – and is producing some of his best rugby right now, for Ireland and Munster. With a high work-rate, he creates opportunities for himself and others.

Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Second sweep: Rob Kearney was also part of Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam team (Getty Images)

Rob Kearney, 31 – The only other survivor from that 2009 Grand Slam win over Wales, Kearney has rediscovered his top form this season. Rock-solid under the high ball and a threat when running from deep.

Sean Cronin, 31 – The replacement hooker throughout this campaign, the Leinsterman is more of a threat in the loose than Rory Best and is the perfect front-rower to bring on in the last quarter when the game is opening up.

Jack McGrath, 28 – Another of Ireland’s dynamic props, he won three caps off the bench for the Lions last year and his battle with Cian Healy for the Ireland (and Leinster) No 1 shirt should continue right up until RWC 2019.

Andrew Porter, 22 – He played his age-grade rugby at loosehead but has since switched to tighthead and showed against Italy, when he arrived in the opening minutes, and Wales that he is an able stand-in for Tadhg Furlong. An extremely powerful carrier.

Devin Toner, 31 – The 6ft 10in lock started three and was a replacement in two of the five championship games. He uses his height to great effect at the lineout and has improved his impacts around the field.

Jordi Murphy, 26 – Came onto Ireland’s bench for the final two games against Scotland and England, and has the ability to cover all three back-row positions. Moving to Ulster next season in the hope of more game time.

Kieran Marmion, 26 – The Connacht scrum-half was Conor Murray’s understudy against Italy, Scotland and England, although he came on at wing in the closing stages at Twickenham due to injuries.

Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Flying the flag: Joey Carbery is Ireland’s back-up at fly-half (Getty Images)

Joey Carbery, 22 – The heir apparent to Johnny Sexton at fly-half, although some observers have also suggested fielding him at inside-centre to have two playmakers in the back-line. A classy talent.

Jordan Larmour, 20 – The hype around this youngster has grown with every game he’s played this season. He has scored some incredible tries for Leinster from the back three, had a tricky debut against Italy but coped admirably when coming on at 13 for the final quarter at Twickenham.

Jack Conan, 25 – Started at No 8 against Italy but was removed at half-time after taking a shoulder knock. Came off the bench against Wales, but was left out of the 23 for the final two games. Not as powerful a carrier as CJ Stander but has great potential and skills.

Robbie Henshaw, 24 – Started at 13 outside his former Connacht team-mate Bundee Aki against France and Italy, but was ruled out for the rest of the tournament after injuring his shoulder in the act of scoring his second try against the Azzurri. Could fit in at 12 in a potential midfield with his now Leinster colleagues Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose.

Fergus McFadden, 31 – A reliable utility back who featured off the bench against France and Ireland. A man Joe Schmidt often calls upon as a replacement.

Quinn Roux, 27 – The South Africa-born lock was used as a replacement for the games against Italy and Wales at the Aviva Stadium. The Connacht man has played five Tests in all since 2016.

John Ryan, 29 – Another who appeared in two games from the bench, the Munster tighthead coming on against France and Wales.

Ireland’s Grand Slam heroes

Burst: Chris Farrell was Man of the Match against Wales (Getty Images)

Chris Farrell, 25 – The third outside-centre Ireland have used in this championship, he made just one start before being ruled out by a knee injury suffered in training. Yet he was Man of the Match against Wales, impressing in both defence and attack.

Josh van der Flier, 24 – His Six Nations campaign was over within 25 minutes of the whistle blowing to signal kick-off in Paris. Starting at openside against France, he was forced off with a knee injury that has ruled him out for the season.

The question now is how many of this 30 will be part of Ireland’s World Cup squad in 18 months’ time? And how many new faces will we see? This is certainly a great base to work from and Ireland now have impressive depth in most areas, as well as exciting young talent.

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