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Ronan: ‘Step Up’ Required For Churchill Decider

Ronan: ‘Step Up’ Required For Churchill Decider

Ireland ‘A’ can wrestle the Churchill Cup crown away from England Saxons when they meet in a Father’s Day final in Commerce City, Denver next Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm local time/9.30pm Irish time, live Sky Sports 1).

The Irish side’s 40-5 victory over a battling Georgian team at an Infinity Park on Sunday, which flirted with tornado conditions (there were four warnings in total), secured their first ever cup final appearance in a tournament won the last two years by the Saxons.

Canada will meet Argentina Jaguars in next Sunday’s Plate final (12.05pm local time), while the USA face Georgia in the Bowl decider to complete a bumper triple header day at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (4.45pm).

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Ireland ‘A’, who have won the Plate title for the past three years, now have a crack at the Saxons, who were 56-17 winners over the USA Eagles earlier on Sunday.

The Saxons have won the sides’ two most recent meetings – 31-13 in a friendly at Welford Road in February of last year and 34-12 in the pool stages of last year’s Churchill Cup.

However, Ireland ‘A’ can draw encouragement from a memorable 30-27 triumph over the English side in the Plate final at the 2006 Churchill Cup.

Last February’s scheduled clash between Ireland ‘A’ and the Saxons was called off shortly before kick-off at Donnybrook due to concerns over what was deemed an unplayable pitch.

Fergus McFadden led the Irish scoring against Georgia with two tries and a conversion, while there were also tries from Johne Murphy, giant prop Tony Buckley, debutant full-back Felix Jones and Chris Henry, with Niall O’Connor kicking two penalties and a conversion.

Man-of-the-match Niall Ronan, who put in an energetic display at openside flanker, said afterwards: “We were happy with the first half but we need to step up next week. England have a lot of experienced players and we have to improve.

“We lost the ball at the breakdown too much and we didn’t finish off a few chances. We need to be focused next Sunday.”

Head coach Declan Kidney, who watched the Georgian game alongside his fellow senior coaches, has played down his side’s chances of success in the cup decider, focusing instead on the valuable game-time it will provide his young players.

“We came here to try and give our younger players more experience. England has a hugely professional outfit that could easily field five or six sides of similar strength,” he said.

“Being from a smaller rugby country, we don’t have that. But it will be a great experience for our team to meet the Saxons in the final.”