5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland Under-19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday week (December 14) has been announced.
Invited to the Lions training base in Surrey, the boys and girls (known as the HSBC Cubs) were given a very special team talk by tour manager Gerald Davies and head coach Ian McGeechan before being led to the training pitch to meet the 34 Lions players currently in camp.
The children were chosen from all four home nations and spent time training and being coached by squad members, overseen by McGeechan and his fellow coaches.
Eight-year-old Morgan Richards was one of the Welsh HSBC Cubs and described the day as the best of his life.
Despite some early nerves from one or two of the Cubs, their Lions team-mates soon made them feel welcome and helped them improve their rugby skills.
Ellen McCarthy, aged nine from Kinnitty, got more than she bargained for when Lions captain Paul O'Connell and Nathan Hines decided to use her for some lineout practice, lifting her ten foot in the air.
Meanwhile, five of the Cubs decided to test winger Ugo Monye's speed by racing him the length of the pitch.
Once training was finished, the youngsters got to grill their favourite players with questions in front of television cameras from the BBC and Sky Sports.
The HBSC Cubs were then invited to join the squad for the official photograph of the tour before the Cubs were presented with commemorative certificates from the day.
Speaking on the activity, Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship for HSBC Holdings, said: "Encouraging more children to play rugby and investing in the next generation of Lions players has been a core part of HSBC's sponsorship of the British & Irish Lions.
"Today was a fantastic way to bring that all to life with the 2009 squad.
"The players and coaches were fantastic with the Cubs, and we had 15 very excited and proud children who will hopefully never forget their special day.
"Over 60,000 children have already experienced the HSBC Rugby Festivals and today was another way of encouraging youngsters to enjoy playing rugby and growing their love of the game."
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues and Wales winger Leigh Halfpenny will not travel to South Africa with the British & Irish Lions tour party next Sunday.
He will return to Cardiff tomorrow where he will undergo treatment for an existing thigh injury that has proved more significant than first thought.
The Lions medical team have confirmed the injury requires at least 10 to 14 days' treatment following a scan on Tuesday.
It is the belief of the Lions management team that it would be better for the player to receive intensive treatment in Cardiff.
The management have always had the expectation that travelling players should be fit to play the first game on tour. A replacement player will be announced in due course.
However, once Halfpenny is fully fit he will rejoin the Lions in South Africa. This will take the tour party back to 37 players as originally announced.
The number was reduced to 36 following the shoulder injury sustained by Welsh centre Tom Shanklin.