The Irish Colleges Rugby Union play their first fixture against French Students at Suttonians Rugby Club, Dublin on Friday, with the game kicking off at 6.30pm.
Since its foundation in 1986, not only have the Irish Colleges competed continuously in the Four Nations Student rugby competitions but they have also played host to a number of international sides, including the Canadian Under-23s and the Japanese Universities.
This is the first occasion that the Irish Colleges will meet the French Students – a team that is selected from all of the third level affiliates in France.
The French Students are very much part of the French Rugby Union structure and have built a strong management, selection and coaching structure around their team.
They have gained and continue to gain much respect by their counterparts within the student rugby family.
Presently, they are classified as third tier within French rugby. Many of their past players have achieved full international honours at senior level.
In the 2008 season, the French Students defeated the English Students 45-9 in Toulon, the Irish Universities at Romans by 46-22 and the Japanese Universities in Tokyo by 27-0.
However, they were narrowly defeated by the Japanese ‘A’ side on a 20-19 score-line.
The Irish Colleges can look back on 2008 season as a very successful one having defeated the Combined UK Services U-23s 40-0 and the Scottish Universities by 45-8 in their first two games.
In their game at Henley-upon-Thames in March, they were defeated by the England Students 30-14. In that game, they were 13-3 behind at half-time before the Irish players got into the pace of the game and we were leading 14-13 within 15 minutes of the second half.
The Irish Colleges were then given two yellow cards within a minute, entering the final quarter. The English took advantage and the game was over as a contest when three quick tries followed.
Friday night’s game is regarded as a major test for the Irish Colleges who have also a fixture arranged for February 27 when they play the English Students at City of Derry Rugby Club.
Irish Colleges Rugby Union Squad:
Neil Simpson (UUJ/Instonians), Stephen Snell (NCI/Greystones), Mike Storey (UL/ULBohemians), Cian Culleton (Sallynoggin FE/Blackrock), Andrew Ferguson (UUJ/Ballymena), Robin Copeland (DBS/St. Mary’s College), Brian Moroney (GCD/Terenure College), Alex Dunlop (IT Tallaght/Terenure College), John Downey (Sallynoggin FE/Greystones), John Dever (Garda College/Terenure College), Andrew Kerr (UUJ/Rainey Old Boys), Eoghan Nihill (Blackhall Place/Wanderers)
Sean Treacy (DCU/Clontarf), Sean Joyce (NUIG/Connemara), Mark Geraghty (DCU/Greystones), Brian Collins (IT Blanchardstown/Old Belvedere), Mark O’Connor (UUJ/City of Derry), Lorcan Kavanagh (DCU/Lansdowne), Kevin Lynch (CSN/Dolphin), Paddy O’Toole (Garda College/Connemara, Peter Budina (UUJ/Ballymena), Josh Devitt (UUJ/Malone) ,Craig Morrin (IT Tallaght/St. Mary’s College)