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Preview: England Counties v Ireland Club XV

Preview: England Counties v Ireland Club XV

Players from eleven different clubs will proudly represent Ireland tonight when the AIB Club International outfit takes on the might of England Counties at Stourbridge RFC. There is a new coach on board this year in current Clonakilty boss David O’Mahony, while Dolphin scrum half Sam Cronin skippers the side.

INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, February 26

ENGLAND COUNTIES v IRELAND CLUB XV, Stourton Park, Stourbridge RFC, 7.30pm

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Team News: AIB Club International coach and former Ireland scrum half David O’Mahony has named the starting line-up and replacements to face England Counties in Stourbridge.

The Ireland squad is selected from players in the AIB League who are not currently on a professional contract and is a chance for the best players in the amateur game to represent their country.

This fixture has become increasingly popular in recent seasons with the Ireland Club side acquitting themselves well in games against England Counties and the Scotland Club side.

Friday’s clash is the third meeting with England Counties. The AIB Club International side won the first meeting in 2007 by 20-17, while last year the tie ended in a 13-13 draw.

Munster clubs have dominated AIB League rugby down through the years and this is demonstrated by the presence of ten players drawn from clubs in the province in the starting line-up, including three each from reigning AIB League champions Shannon and newly-crowned AIB Cup champions Cork Constitution.

Cork club Dolphin will also have a keen interest in the game as the lively half-back pairing of Sam Cronin and Barry Keeshan will anchor the side and they are joined in the national team by club-mates Barry O’Mahony and Eric Moloney with Christy Condon on the bench.

Scrum half Cronin has also been handed the captaincy role for the match.

Up front, Shannon’s Mike Essex will be joined by Cork Con’s Martin Gately and Simon Shawe of Ballymena, who is one of only four players included from outside Division 1A.

Old Belvedere’s Richie Leyden is on the blindside flank with John Cleary of Galwegians on the right wing, while UCC’s Sean Scanlon will provide cover for full-back from the bench.

All told there are eleven clubs represented in the AIB Club International side – Ballymena, Blackrock College, Clontarf, Cork Constitution, Dolphin, Galwegians, Old Belvedere, St. Mary’s College, Shannon, UCC and UL Bohemians.

Meanwhile, the England Counties coaches have included players from 13 different clubs in their side to face Ireland’s club elite at Stourbridge RFC.

And in keeping with tradition, they have again chosen a strong contingent of players who will be making their debuts at this level.

The make-up of the squad also underlines the diversity of Counties XV rugby, the representative flagship of the English county and community game, with 14 newcomers in the selection.

Only Jack Harrison and new captain Tom Bason survive from the corresponding game at Donnybrook last year.

ENGLAND COUNTIES: Frankie Neale (London Scottish); Sam Ulph (Esher), Jack Harrison (Tynedale), Seb Jewell (Esher), David Howells (London Scottish); James Brown (London Scottish), Luke Baldwin (Blackheath); John Williams (Tynedale), Joe Graham (Tynedale), Sam Heard (Redruth), Matt Owen (Macclesfield), Tom Bason (Blackheath) (capt), Dan Legge (Cambridge), Darren Fox (Cambridge), Tom Powell (Cambridge).

Replacements: Matt Hall (Blaydon), Tom Warren (Esher), Ben Harris (Huddersfield), Alex Nash (Rugby Lions), Tom Richardson (Stourbridge), Matt Riley (Sedgley Park), Steve Parsons (Harrogate).

IRELAND CLUB XV: Daragh O’Shea (Clontarf); John Cleary (Galwegians), Eric Moloney (Dolphin), Evan Ryan (Cork Constitution), Stephen Kelly (Shannon); Barry Keeshan (Dolphin), Sam Cronin (Dolphin) (capt); Martin Gately (Cork Constitution), Mike Essex (Shannon), Simon Shawe (Ballymena), Paul Huntly (Blackrock College), Fergal Walsh (Shannon), Richie Leyden (Old Belvedere), Barry O’Mahony (Dolphin), Frank Cogan (Cork Constitution).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon (Clontarf), Christy Condon (Dolphin), Simon Crawford (Clontarf), Hugh Hogan (St. Mary’s College), Cathal Sheridan (UL Bohemians), Darragh Fitzpatrick (Blackrock College), Sean Scanlon (UCC).

Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Davies, Chris Seeley (both England)

Pre-Match Mulitmedia/Quotes:

Sam Cronin Talks To IrishRugby.ie

Stephen Kelly Talks To IrishRugby.ie

Danny Hodgson (England Counties manager) – “I’m especially pleased to see so many new faces in the squad because it reflects on the support we’ve had from the clubs and their coaches and directors of rugby.

“All 48 clubs in National Division One and Divisions Two North and South have got behind us and were nominating players early in the season.

“We managed to look at all of them before the bad weather started to impact of the programme and we saw some very talented players, hence the new faces.

“The selection of Tom Bason as captain basically stems from his experience as a member of the Counties set-up previously and the fact that he is captaining Blackheath. He knows what the job entails and he’s well aware of what we are about as a team.

“He’ll do well and I’m looking forward enormously to seeing another band of newcomers working together with the lads who have been with the Counties before.

“Ireland will be a tough challenge and we’ll need to be on our game if we are to get our first win against them, but I’m confident we’ll do well.”

Ireland Club XV: Previous Matches –

2006: Ireland Club XV 30 Scotland Club XV 13, Donnybrook

2007: Ireland Club XV 20 England Counties 17, Donnybrook; Scotland Club XV 18 Ireland Club XV 11, Boroughmuir RFC

2008: Ireland Club XV 20 Scotland Club XV 15, Donnybrook

2009: Ireland Club XV 13 England Counties 13, Donnybrook; Scotland Club XV 31 Ireland Club XV 18, Watsonians RFC