The extended Ireland squad have a down day today before returning to training tomorrow morning. The O2 Ireland Wolfhounds team to take on England Saxons will be named at 1pm tomorrow.
Following on from the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds squad announcement yesterday, Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss spoke about what Friday’s game in Galway is about and the opportunities it presents.
“We’re really happy with what we have there and we’ll finalise the team on Thursday. It’s a similar time frame, I think, to the Saxons finalising their team,” he said ahead of the Sportsground fixture.
“But the preparation has been very handy. The players have asked for it themselves, the best players in the country are in there and it’s a real nice, handy feeling around the place.
“The Wolfhounds opportunity that comes on Friday is similar to Fiji in November. It’s an opportunity for guys to put their hand up. Anyone who is in that squad is going to be considered for the squad for the Six Nations opener (against Wales) next week.”
Speaking about the young back-line options available for the Wolfhounds, Kiss said: “We’ve got Ian (Madigan), who can cover full-back and also out-half. We’ve got Paddy (Jackson) and Ian Keatley too.
“Ian actually covered 12 for us in the lead-up to the World Cup when we played Connacht and did a good job. There’s nice flexibility in around there.
“I see this game as a real opportunity for players to place themselves in the shop window in terms of the Six Nations squad.
Connacht’s own Robbie Henshaw was included in the 23-man squad for the Wolfhounds game. The 19-year-old, who has played in all of Connacht’s 19 games this season, is one of the nine players selected not yet capped at full international level.
Henshaw has clearly made an impression this season and speaking about the Athlone-born teenager, Kiss admitted: “We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when they (Connacht) lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job.”
The squad for Friday’s televised encounter also boasts a return to a green jersey for Leinster outside back Luke Fitzgerald after an absence of over a year. Fitzgerald boasts 23 senior caps for Ireland and will add a touch of experience and flair to the Wolfhounds line-up.
“It’s a really pleasing thing personally, and I guess from all the coaches we’re real happy to see Luke back playing as well as he did before he had his injury problems,” added the Australian.
“I guess the big thing in for Luke after the last two years is he’s working into 8, 9, 10, 12 games now and it’s nice to see him finding his feet quickly this time around.
“If you go back a month you were wondering whether he was going to be here in the squad, but he’s done so well in his short time frame that he’s right in the shop window, isn’t he?”
“Luke has let the game come to him rather than just overchasing opportunities, overplaying his hand. He’s just been a patient footballer.
“When I first came here he had that in buckets but maybe there’s been frustration around his injuries, where he was trying to get too much done around his game.
“But he looks like he’s really found his niche. I think he feels really comfortable about his body and he’s in really good form.”
All Connacht Rugby Season Ticket holders can purchase tickets at a 50% discounted price. So that is just €;10 for an adult ticket. This offer ends tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm.
€;20: Adult Terrace
€;25: Adult Enclosed
€;5: All Children (Under-18)
€;10: Connacht Season Ticket Holders*
€;25: Connacht Family Season Ticket*
* Offer ends on Thursday at 5pm
10% of all ticket sales for the match will be donated to the Sunni Mae Trust.