Liam Toland: After 23 years of professional rugby are Irish provinces succeeding?

The Irish team punches above its weight, but at provincial level, success is harder to define

Joey Carbery: His conundrum will find its own solution; elite rugby tends to. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Joey Carbery: His conundrum will find its own solution; elite rugby tends to. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

What is success? Dare I wonder, in this professional era, what Connacht coach Kieran Keane’s definition might be? In the beginning of professional rugby, Ulster and Leinster were the kingpins – a role not formally given to them but happily carried for well over 100 years of the amateur era.

The first Irish international was played in 1875 against England where Ireland was made up entirely of Leinster (12) and Ulster (8) players. This season thus far Leinster have played 55 players in all Leinster competitions but with 18 playing in the November series and 20 in the Six Nations, with Ulster dwindling behind as both Connacht and Munster have caught up.

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