Ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Six Nations clash in Dublin between the World Rugby No1 ranked Ireland and defending champions France, a video clip has been posted to social media showing how a bruising 18-man ruck materialised between the two countries during their 1985 Five Nations fixture.
Safety at the breakdown has become a massive hot topic in the modern game, but 18 players didn’t think twice 38 years ago about contesting this particular amateur-era Lansdowne Road pile-on which materialised when Ireland fumbled the ball when trying to use their midfield to attack off lineout possession.
A tackle from Didier Codorniou on Rory Moroney caused the spillage and the players piled into the breakdown with little or no regard for their safety after Trevor Ringland dived on the loose ball.
In the end, nine players from Ireland and another nine from France became involved in the ruck on the halfway line and the outcome was referee Kerry Fitzgerald blowing his whistle and signalling a scrum put-in for the French.
In the 47-second clip posted to Twitter, the play started with Ireland captain Ciaran Fitzgerald throwing in at a first-half lineout and after the ball worked its way to the backs, TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith said: “This is Dean again. Kiernan straight through to Moroney. Good tackling from Codorniou causes the breakdown on the halfway line.”
1985 Ireland vs France
Lansdowne Road, 2 March 1985
Eighteen players in a ruck pic.twitter.com/PMsDHy2O6s
— APSM Rugby Channel ? (@ApsmRugby) February 7, 2023
Silence followed with the massive pile-on occurring and the commentary only eventually resumed after the referee had made his decision to bring the play to a halt. “Ireland can thank Trevor Ringland there because of the loose ball,” said ex-England skipper Bill Beaumont, Starmer-Smith’s wingman in the commentary booth that day who has since gone on to become World Rugby chairman.
“He certainly threw himself at it and stopped the French from winning because if they won it then Ireland were in big trouble. Ringland, sort of regardless for his own safety, dived straight in at the feet of the French forwards. Brave play.”
The match eventually finished in a 15-all draw and the season ended later that March with Ireland crowned Five Nations and Triple Crown champions following a narrow win over England in Dublin.