The Greatest Leinster XV Of The Professional Era
Following on from the success of our Munster XV, we’re back again with their Irish rivals.
Three-time Heineken Cup champions Leinster have had some seriously formidable teams over the years, boasting the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Denis Hickie and Rocky Elsom in their ranks over the years, but who would make an an XV of their best players from the professional era?
Once again it’s a really tough one when you look back at the success the Irish province had, and some of the real world beaters that have worn the famous blue jersey over the years. Regardless we’ve decided to give it a go. There’s a few controversial choices, but remember, this is just our opinion, feel free to let us know where you would make changes.
1. Cian Healy
Tough choice here between Healy and McGrath. McGrath no doubt is the better player right now and has a good chance of overtaking Healy, but ‘Church’ started all three winning Heineken Cup finals in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and has 157 Leinster caps to his name.
2. Shane Byrne
Some really talented hookers have represented Leinster over the years such as Bernard Jackman, Richardt Strauss and Sean Cronin. Despite Strauss starting both the 2011 and 2012 final, we’ve gone with the 2005 Lions tourist on this one. 143 caps for Leinster in a career that spanned a decade with the eastern province.
3. Mike Ross
138 caps for Leinster and two Heineken Cup winners medals, starting the 2011 and 2012 finals. An integral part of the Ireland and Leinster set-up since he joined the province in 2009 from Harlequins.
4. Leo Cullen (C)
Brad Thorn deserves an honourable mention here, despite his brief tenure with the province but current head coach Leo Cullen has to get the nod. Captained the side in all three victorious Heineken Cup finals and played 141 times in a seven-year spell with the province as a player before getting the head coach job in 2015.
5. Malcolm O’Kelly
183 caps for Leinster in two spells, the Irish lock was one of Leinster’s key players for most of his career. Lifted the Heineken Cup with the province in 2009.
6. Rocky Elsom
When Rocky Elsom signed for Leinster in 2008 it was seen as a massive coup for the province. The Wallaby didn’t disappoint in his sole season with the club, playing a pivotal role in their first Heineken Cup win in 2009. Elsom is one of Australia’s most decorated players, having won Herald Super 14 player of the year in 2007, Wallaby of the year in 2008, European Player of the Year in 2009 and inducted into the European Cup Hall of Fame in 2010.
7. Sean O’Brien
The Tullow Tank has been unlucky with injury in recent seasons but burst onto the scene with Leinster 2008 and has to be our choice at seven. 102 caps for Leinster, a 2013 Lions tourist and 2 Heineken Cups to his name. When fit, still one of the most feared sevens in world rugby.
8. Jamie Heaslip
Another man to start all three of Leinster’s victorious Heineken Cup finals, the Newbridge College man has amassed an astonishing 219 caps with Leinster since he made his debut in 2005. An absolute rock at 8.
9. Eoin Reddan
Chris Whitaker gets a notable mention here for his terrific spell with the province, that culminate in Heineken Cup glory in 2009, but Reddan gets the nod for us. The Irish international hoisted the famous trophy twice with Leinster in 2011 and 2012 and picked up 140 caps with the province in a seven-year spell.
10. Felipe Contepomi
This choice is going to maybe upset a few people. It’s fair to say that Johnny Sexton has been huge for Leinster since his debut in 2006. Sexton played a key role in all three of Leinster’s European wins, but we’ve gone for their all-time top points scorer on this one. Contepomi played 116 times for the province in a a six-year spell, amassing an astonishing 1225 points.
11. Denis Hickie
Hickie unfortunately never lifted the Heineken Cup with Leinster after retiring in 2007 at just 31. The speedster played 129 times for the province, racking up a 303 points. There’s some huge competition here for a coveted wing spot, but its Hickie all day long for us.
12. Gordon D’Arcy
Could have went with Contepomi here and slotted in Sexton at outhalf, but it’s impossible to leave D’Arcy out. Formed a formidable partnership with O’Driscoll in a career with the province that lasted 17 years and 257 caps.
13. Brian O’Driscoll
Do we really need to explain this one? Didn’t think so.
14. Shane Horgan
Leinster’s all-time top try scorer with an astonishing 69 tries. An absolute monster of a winger, that would make most teams at his very best.
15. Isa Nacewa
Tough one here. Girvan Dempsey was solid for many years and Rob Kearney has been a brilliant servant for the province, but we’ve decided to give the fullback jersey to Isa Nacewa due to overwhelming demand on social media. A super player over the years that has played a huge part in the clubs success.