It was announced today that the Ireland senior coaching team will be taking charge of the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds for their match against England Saxons at the Sportsground on Friday, January 25 (kick-off 7.35pm).
Declan Kidney, Les Kiss, Gert Smal and Mark Tainton will all be involved in preparing the side for the first appearance of the Wolfhounds at the home of Connacht Rugby in Galway.
It has also been confirmed that both Munster assistant coach Anthony Foley and Leinster’s Greg Feek will be joining the coaching team for the Wolfhounds game and continue to work with Ireland squad throughout the RBS 6 Nations Championship.
Foley will again be leading the defensive plans for the Irish squad and New Zealander Feek will remain in his role as scrum coach.
Traditionally the Wolfhounds or ‘A’ games have been played at the beginning of the Championship to provide game-time and experience to players and also allow coaches of the participating countries to review individual performances of those challenging for places in the senior teams.
The move to involve the senior coaches with the Wolfhounds team is designed to aid preparations for Ireland’s opening Six Nations game against Wales in Cardiff by giving the Ireland coaching staff the opportunity to run their eyes over the players and also allow the players a chance to impress the coaches.
An enlarged Irish squad will convene following round 6 of the Heineken Cup, with all of the players available for selection for both the England Saxons and Wales matches.
This is not the first time that the senior coaching staff have worked with the shadow senior side, having taken the reins for the 2009 Churchill Cup win which involved current senior internationals Sean Cronin, Jonathan Sexton, Donnacha Ryan, Cian Healy and Fergus McFadden.
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney said: “Our priority is the Wales game, but the opportunity will be the Saxons match for some of the players as we head into the Six Nations.
“Having a larger squad together enables us to work at close hand with all the players and having this week’s Christmas camp was really important to give us a head start in building on our foundations from November.
“While the majority of our focus to the preparations is for the Wales game, the coaching staff felt it made sense to have time with the wider group of players and also to have two fully fit teams on the field ready to train after what is usually an attritional end to the group stages in Europe.
“There are quite a few players who have been out injured and could be lacking game-time, so this could be the ideal chance to have a look at some challengers for the team for that opening game against Wales.”
He added: “I’m also delighted that both Anthony (Foley) and Greg (Feek) will be with us for the Championship, and I would like to thank both Rob Penney and Joe Schmidt for again giving them the time to continue in their roles.”
Tickets for the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds fixture against England Saxons are available from ticketmaster.ie and the Connacht Rugby offices.
Entry to the game starts at €;20 for adults and just €;5 for children under 18 years of age, with Connacht Rugby Season Ticket holders being offered a 50% discount on adult tickets.