Why Do Ireland Play Rugby as One Country? [EXPLAINED]

Ireland has a long and illustrious history in the sport of rugby union, having won the Five Nations championship six times and the Six Nations championship four times since 2000, including two ‘Grand Slams’ of five wins out of five.

They are one of only two teams, along with England, to have never won the Wooden Spoon by losing every match of the tournament, a fate that has befallen the likes of Italy and Scotland.

Despite its popularity, rugby union has had a polarising effect on Irish culture over the years, largely because the island of Ireland only has one national team, unlike in football where there are separate national sides for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

So why is this the case? Why are rugby union and football treated so differently in northern and southern Ireland? 

Let’s reveal the answers.

Why Do Ireland Sing 2 National Anthems?

The two anthems sung are ‘Ireland’s Call’ and Amhrán na bhFiann (Soldier’s Song). Ireland’s decision to sing two different anthems is a result of the historic, religious and political divisions on the island of Ireland.

Amhrán na bhFiann is officially the Irish national anthem, but Unionists in Northern Ireland find it offensive as it references Irish independence, which is something that they reject, as they hope to stay connected to Great Britain.

There has always been tension regarding the anthem, which meant a new song was commissioned for the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. Phil Coulter wrote ‘Ireland’s Call’ that year as an alternative without political connotations.

Nowadays, at games in the Republic, both songs are sung (although Northern Irish players aren’t required to sing Amhrán na bhFiann). At other games, ‘Ireland’s Call’ is the only anthem sung.

Why Do Ireland Play Rugby as One Country?

Ireland plays rugby as one country because the rugby union ruling body, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), was formed in 1879 and thus predates the partition of the island of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in 1921.

Rather than split Irish rugby under the north and south lines, it was decided to retain one national team to include international players from both sides of the border.

Does Northern Ireland Have a Rugby Team?

Northern Ireland does not have a national rugby union team; instead, players from Northern Ireland are eligible to play for the Irish national team.

The rugby union side Ulster does represent Northern Ireland in club rugby and in European competition, but there is no national side representing Northern Ireland.

Why Is There No Northern Ireland Rugby Team?

There is no Northern Ireland rugby team because it was decided after the partition of the island of Ireland in 1921 to keep the status quo of having an Irish national side representing the entire island, north and south.

Why Does Ireland Have Two Separate Football Teams?

After Ireland was partitioned in 1921, the south of Ireland gained independence as the Irish Free State, later to become the Republic of Ireland. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) emerged in Dublin in 1921 and organised a separate league and later a national team.

In 1923, the FAI was recognised by FIFA as the governing body of the Irish Free State, while the original Irish Football Association (IFA) continues to be the governing body of football in Northern Ireland.

Why Does Ireland Have One Rugby Team and Two Football Teams? (H2)

Ireland has one rugby team and two football teams because after the partition of Ireland in 1921 the sports’ governing bodies made different decisions on whether to retain one national team or split into separate teams for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

While the Irish Rugby Football Union decided to retain one national side to represent the whole of Ireland, in 1921 the Football Association of Ireland was formed in Dublin and set up new leagues and a national team to represent only the Republic of Ireland.

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Thomas Smith

Tommy is a freelance writer and editor based in Spain but originally from the north east of Scotland. A former daily newspaper reporter, he is passionate about football, loves cricket and snooker and enjoys watching most sports.

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