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Preview: Ireland Wolfhounds v Scotland ‘A’

Preview: Ireland Wolfhounds v Scotland ‘A’

The newly-named Ireland Wolfhounds are hoping to get Ravenhill roaring when they take on Scotland ‘A’ in Friday’s eagerly-awaited ‘A’ international clash, with home favourite Chris Henry captaining the side and his Ulster team-mate Nigel Brady poised to make his debut at this level.

‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, February 5

IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS v SCOTLAND ‘A’, Ravenhill, 7.30pm (live RTE website/BBC Sport NI website/BBC Interactive)

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Team News: Ulster back rower Chris Henry will have the honour of captaining the Ireland Wolfhounds in their first game under the new name, against Scotland ‘A’ at Ravenhill.

Henry comes into the Ireland team as one of several changes to the side that lost 17-13 to the England Saxons last Sunday and has also been selected to lead the Wolfhounds in their first competitive outing.

With other players moving into the senior squad for this weekend’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy, the selected Wolfhounds shows seven personnel changes overall to the starting side from that Saxons game.

Johne Murphy, Munster’s latest signing, is available and takes his place on the right wing, and Darren Cave starts at outside centre with Fergus McFadden moving to inside centre and Keith Matthews named among the replacements.

Also in the back-line, Ian Humphreys, who came on during the Saxons game, will start at out-half against the Scottish visitors.

In the pack, Sean Cronin will start at hooker and Ryan Caldwell comes into the side – replacing Mick O’Driscoll – to partner Devin Toner in the second row.

With Sean O’Brien named in the replacements for the senior team, Dan Tuohy will start on the blindside of the Irish scrum, with Shane Jennings moving to openside flanker.

Meanwhile, head coach Sean Lineen has dubbed this the strongest Scotland ‘A’ side he has worked with as they look to start the international weekend with a bang in Belfast.

Lineen has selected an experienced starting line-up – containing 206 senior caps – which includes British & Irish Lions pair Mike Blair and Euan Murray, with the latter unavailable for selection for Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations opener against France on Sunday due to his religious beliefs.

The Scotland ‘A’ side includes five up-and-coming uncapped players – Jim Thompson, Ruaridh Jackson, Jon Welsh, James Eddie and Roddy Grant.

Meanwhile, Fraser McKenzie could be sprung from an Edinburgh-dominated replacements bench to make his ‘A’ team debut.

With eight Ulster players in the Wolfhounds squad, they will be eager to put one over on the province’s winger Simon Danielli, who will line out on the left wing for Scotland ‘A’, while ex-Ulster centre Rob Dewey is on the visitors’ bench.

IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); Johne Murphy (Leicester Tigers), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster), Ian Humphreys (Ballymena/Ulster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster); Marcus Horan (Shannon/Munster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Shane Jennings (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster) (capt).

Replacements: Nigel Brady (Dungannon/Ulster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Ed O’Donoghue (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht).

SCOTLAND ‘A’: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh); Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Simon Danielli (Ulster); Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Mike Blair (Edinburgh) (capt); Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints).

Replacements: Andrew Kelly (Edinburgh), Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh), Craig Hamilton (Edinburgh), Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Rob Dewey (Glasgow Warriors), John Houston (Edinburgh).

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Cédric Marchat, Eric Soulan (both France)
Television Match Official: Daniel Irazoqui (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland Wolfhounds to win: 2/7; Draw: 25/1; Scotland ‘A’ to win: 5/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Chris Henry (Ireland Wolfhounds) – “Because it’s a short week. there’s new lineouts, new calls, new phase calls. A lot of the preparation is organisational, the provinces have their own individual calls so it takes a while to get into it.

“But we are always very well prepared, the management do a great job getting us to the place we need to be for a game.

“We talked about the loose balls we lost at the breakdown (last week against England Saxons), our scrum probably in the first half wasn’t as good as it should have been.

“There’s a few personnel changes and we’ve gone through our lineouts, we’ve done a lot of lineout work and worked on our scrum.

“That’s the priority, getting good ball off set pieces to give our backs a chance.

“There’s some great talent in the back-line and some serious speed, so hopefully we’ll be able to chuck the ball about and it’ll be a good game to watch.

“The ‘A’ team has been successful over the years, and last week was a bit of a blip for us. Now we just want to make sure we get things back on track and beat Scotland.”

Sean Lineen (Scotland ‘A’) – “The players have all bought into what we are trying to achieve and they realise this is a stepping stone towards playing for Scotland in the Six Nations.

“Last year Scotland ‘A’ enjoyed a huge amount of success, including the Nations Cup triumph in Romania, and only lost one match in 2009.

“Unfortunately that result was against Ireland ‘A’, so we are keen to set the record straight and produce a positive performance in Belfast.

“All of the players involved are pushing for selection in the senior team and there is the right balance in the squad with youth and experience.

“To have two world-class players like Mike (Blair) and Euan (Murray) gives everyone a massive lift and it promises to be a good night of rugby.”

Pre-Match Links –

Henry ‘Over The Moon’ With Captaincy Nod

Wolfhounds To Return To Irish Rugby 

Wolfhounds Duo Relish Ravenhill Return 

Ireland ‘A’ Fall Short In Bath 

Recent Meetings –

2007: Churchill Cup Plate final: Ireland ‘A’ 22 Scotland ‘A’ 21, Twickenham 
2008: Scotland ‘A’ 67 Ireland ‘A’ 7, McDiarmid Park 
2009: Ireland ‘A’ 35 Scotland ‘A’ 10, The RDS