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Churchill Cup Preview: Ireland ‘A’ v Georgia

Churchill Cup Preview: Ireland ‘A’ v Georgia

A much-changed Ireland ‘A’ side will take on Georgia in their second and final pool match at the 2009 Churchill Cup later today (Glendale, Colorado, kick-off 3.30pm local time/10.30pm Irish time), with the carrot of qualification for next weekend’s final dangling in front of them.

2009 CHURCHILL CUP – POOL A: Sunday, June 14

IRELAND ‘A’ v GEORGIA, Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado, 3.30pm local time/10.30pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2)

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Team News: Ireland coach Declan Kidney has continued to throw the net across the talent pool in Irish rugby by announcing a much-changed Ireland ‘A’ team to play Georgia in the Churchill Cup in Colorado.

The summer tour to North America and the Churchill Cup tournament were planned to allow the Ireland coaches access to as many of the up and coming professional players as possible and the team that played Canada on Wednesday in the Churchill Cup was an illustration of this.

There were 14 changes between the ‘A’ team that faced Canada in midweek and the one that played them in the summer Test at the end of May

The players and coaches are continuing the theme for this weekend with a further nine changes to the side that won the Churchill Cup opener 30-19.

Sunday’s clash with Georgia will see seven players starting an Ireland game for the first time this summer.

Cian Healy starts at loosehead prop in place of Bryan Young, with Denis Fogarty, a late try scorer against Canada, pencilled in at hooker in place of Sean Cronin.

Donnacha Ryan retains his place in the second row and is joined there by Trevor Hogan who swaps his spot on the bench from the Canada game with his Leinster team-mate Devin Toner, who was man-of-the-match on Wednesday.

Niall Ronan, who won his first full Ireland caps against Canada and the USA last month, comes into the team in the back row in place of the unfortunate Sean O’Brien who has returned home with a knee injury.

Churchill Cup tour captain John Muldoon will also make his first start of the tournament, coming in for Chris Henry at number 8.

With Jonathon Sexton already having experience of working with the Ireland coaches and faring well in the Heineken Cup, Niall O’Connor is given another start at number 10 to build on his work on the senior tour and get more vital game-time in the pivot position.

Frank Murphy, who was used as a second half replacement in the Canada game, takes over from Isaac Boss at scrum half.

There are three new faces in the back-line with James Downey, Simon Keogh and Ireland ‘A’ debutant Felix Jones all promoted to the starting line-up.

Meanwhile, Georgia will be looking to get their Churchill Cup campaign back on track after suffering a 42-10 defeat to Canada in their opening game.

The Georgians, competing in this tournament for the first time, have been put through their paces in training this week by head coach Tim Lane and assistants Damian Cummins and Johnny Nguamo.

Georgia have made ten changes in personnel for Sunday’s encounter. David Dadunashvili has been preferred to Zero Petriashvili at loosehead prop and Kakhaver Uchava and Giorgi Nemsadze link up in the second row, with Levan Datunashvili and Rati Urushadze making way.

Datunashvili is suspended for the game having been found guilty of striking Canada’s Kevin Tkachuk in their previous game.

Merab Kvirikashvili takes over from Lasha Malaguradze at out-half and Georgia may well unleash the highly-rated David Losaberidze off the bench.

The 18-year-old plays centre and number 8 for his club AIA and could make an impact on his debut.

Club commitments and injuries mean the Lelos are missing a number of their senior players so like Ireland, they are using the Churchill Cup to give their young and up-and-coming players some international experience.

Lane, who was backs coach for Australia when they won the 1999 World Cup, took over the Georgians in February of last year.

“We have a lot of new guys training with us since a lot of our more experienced players are missing this tournament for the French Championships,” he said.

“Although it’s a bit disappointing not to have our top team assembled, this is an important opportunity for us. We need to develop our depth for the World Cup coming up in 2011.”

IRELAND ‘A’: Felix Jones (Old Belvedere/Leinster); Simon Keogh (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster), James Downey (Northampton Saints), Johne Murphy (Leicester); Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Frank Murphy (Buccaneers/Connacht); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Trevor Hogan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Neil Best (Northampton Saints), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht) (capt).

Replacements: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht).

GEORGIA: Teimuraz Sokhadze (Unattached); George Elizbarashvili (Lokomotivi), Aleksander Todua (Lelo), Revaz Gigauri (Massy), Lekso Gugava (Lokomotivi Tbilisi); Merab Kvirikashvili (Massy), Giorgi Rokhvadze (AIA); David Dadunashvili (Perigaux), Jaba Bregvadze (Kochebi Tbilisi), Giorgi Jgenti (Oyonnax), Kakhaver Uchava (Costanca Farul), Giorgi Nemsadze (Domont), Grigol Labadze (Unattached) (capt), Simon Maisuradze (Clermont Auvergne), Zviad Maisuradze (Lokomotivi).

Replacements: Iuri Natriashvili (Farul Constanca), Zero Petriashvili (Lokomotivi), Vasil Kakovin (Universteti), Rati Urushadze (Enisei-STM), Lasha Malaguradze (Beziers), Davit Kacharava (Enisei-STM), David Losaberidze (AIA).

Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)

Match Handicap Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland ‘A’ to win (-40 points): 8/11; Draw (40): 25/1; Georgia to win (+40): 11/10

Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland ‘A’) – “I was particularly pleased at the way in which the side kept in the game on Wednesday and showed great composure to pull through and win.

“That will be great experience and is something that will stand to them.

“We are continuing to try and look at players who we may not always have the opportunity to work with during the season.

“The game against Georgia gives us another chance to see how the players fare at this level against a side that will be certainly anxious to put in a good performance after being stung by Canada last weekend.”

Damian Cummins (Georgia assistant coach) – “It was disappointing the way we went down in the end to Canada. Ireland ‘A’ have shown they are a quality side and it’s going to be another tough challenge for us.

“The back end of most games are down to what happens in the first 20-30 minutes.

“If you’re dominating in attack then other teams run out of steam because they are defending and hopefully we’ll get more ball and give ourselves a chance.”

Pre-Match Links –

Toner Enjoys Ireland ‘A’ Debut

Ireland ‘A’ Leave It Late Against Canada

2008: Ireland ‘A’ See Off Pumas To Retain Plate Title

2007: Ireland ‘A’ Hold On For Plate Victory

2006: Dramatic Win For ‘A’ Team 

Churchill Cup Records – Ireland ‘A’: 2006 – Won Plate final; 2007 – Won Plate final; 2008 – Won Plate final

Georgia: 2009 – First appearance 

Recent Form: Ireland ‘A’ – 2008/09: ‘A’ International: Ireland ‘A’ v England Saxons (match postponed due to unplayable pitch); ‘A’ International: Ireland ‘A’ 35 Scotland ‘A’ 10; Churchill Cup: Ireland ‘A’ 30 Canada 19

Georgia – 2008/09: European Nations Cup: Georgia 38 Germany 5; European Nations Cup: Georgia 20 Portugal 20; European Nations Cup: Georgia 55 Spain 11; European Nations Cup: Georgia 28 Romania 23; European Nations Cup: Georgia 29 Russia 21; Churchill Cup: Canada 42 Georgia 10