Josh van der Flier was Ireland's player of the series, but two men pushed him close
As consistent and class as you can get.
To beat the All Blacks in a Test Series in New Zealand, you need men to step up. Josh van der Flier did just that, but he was certainly not the only one.
History has been made by this excellent set of Ireland players, and all that helped them on their way. Many of the squad are heading back home, while others will launch off from Auckland to other parts of the globe for well-earned breaks.
Ireland headed to New Zealand, this summer, to face a side that had a 14-0 home record over them, amassed over 46 years. Their 2-1 series win was the first time since France, in 1994, that a touring side won a three-game Test series. It was the first time since 1998 that the ABs lost back-to-back home games.
As we always do, after tournaments, championships and tours, we have looked back at the player ratings from the matches - First Test, Second Test and Third Test. From there, we have worked out the average rating for each Ireland player, while looking back at the series as a whole.
We start with our player of the series then work our way through the 26 players that featured in the three Tests against New Zealand.
PLAYER OF THE SERIES - Josh van der Flier
At the end of a season in which he won the Irish Players' Player of the Year award and EPCR Player of the Year, the Leinster flanker and his red cap would have been a marked man. The fact that he delivered so emphatically and consistently over three games makes his tour achievements all the more impressive.
One of only a handful to escape with credit from Eden Park, he put in 9/10 performances in Dunedin and Wellington. Scored a try in the series-clincher, had 73 ruck arrivals, made 62 tackles, 26 carries, won two turnovers and assisted in another two. Average rating: 8.33.
Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Beirne (Average rating: 8/10)
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony - an inspiration in Dunedin - was named the sponsors' Player of the Series. He was another that delivered over the three Tests, and stepped up with big turnovers, tackles and lineout steals.
Tadhg Beirne was oddly sedate in the First Test against the ABs, but it was his first competitive game in almost three months. A truer perspective was his performances in Dunedin and Wellington. Got a 10/10 after winning four turnovers, stealing a lineout and making an intercept in the decider.
Johnny Sexton, Bundee Aki, Robbie Henshaw, James Ryan, Rob Herring (7.5)
After that praise for two Munster forwards, we have a batch of Leinster stars and Connacht centre Bundee Aki. Robbie Henshaw was steady and dependable, while Sexton and Ryan all stepped it up after slow starts in Auckland. Sexton was sensational in Dunedin while Ryan had his best game for Ireland all season, at Sky Stadium.
Bundee Aki was pivotal to Ireland's success and, after missing the First Test through injury, Rob Herring was a great impact sub off the bench. Backed himself off that rolling maul and got a fantastic, much-needed try.
Caelan Doris, Hugo Keenan, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, James Lowe, Mack Hansen, Finlay Bealham (7/10)
To see Caelan Doris and Tadhg Furlong so quiet at Eden Park was one of the biggest concerns after that First Test defeat. Both roared back for the remainder of the series, with Doris at his tip-top at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Lowe, Keenan and Sheehan all finished the series with their best showings in that Wellington victory. Mack Hansen will take some shifting from the right wing, even with Andrew Conway and Rob Baloucoune fit, while Andrew Porter will never forget his two tries in the hard-fought victory in Dunedin.
Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Kieran Treadwell, Cian Healy (6.5)
Keith Earls got Ireland's series off to a flyer, was unlucky to miss out on the Second Test and it was nice to see him get off the bench in the decider. Jamison Gibson-Park had a shocker at Eden Park but bounced back well in Dunedin and was steady in Wellington.
The remainder carried out the roles as replacements well, with each making a positive contribution, in certain games, that they can proudly look back on.
Dave Heffernan lasted only a few minutes in the First Test before a concussion ended his tour. Tom O'Toole came on late in the First Test.
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- How Johnny Sexton sets standards in training.
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