There are no late injury concerns for the Ireland Under-18 Clubs squad as they prepare for their opening match of the International Triangular Festival against France at Hartpury College on Wednesday (kick-off 2pm).
The Ireland U-18 Clubs side, coached by Wayne Mitchell and captained by Conor Farrell, arrived at their base at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire on Monday evening, before continuing their preparations with a short training session and run-out.
A late addition to the squad is Portlaoise’s Sean Masterson, the younger brother of Connacht back rower Eoghan Masterson. Sean, who plays in the second row or back row, has replaced the injured Dylan Reeves-Wasik from Bruff.
Reeves-Wasik, who captained the Munster U-18 Clubs team this season, was unfortunately injured in a club game. He received an accidental blow to the eye area that resulted in bruising to the retina. The doctors have advised a rest period of two to three weeks. He will then be reassessed.
Mitchell and his fellow coaches, Jamie Turkington, Brendan O’Connor and Seamus Toomey, are looking forward to the opener against a French team selected from the best players in their regional academies, and then the festival finale against the England U-18 Counties outfit on Easter Saturday.
Talking about the squad’s preparations this season, Ireland U-18 Clubs team manager Dermot Kelly said: “Over the period of five training camps that have been held since November, the coaches have delivered a comprehensive training programme which at its centre is player development. The development programme covers the players’ skill levels, positional skills and knowledge, game appreciation and knowledge, specifically and collectively.
“Adam Sheehan had provided a S&C programme targeting injury prevention, core strength development, improvements in speed and agility. The S&C programme is also position-specific and one of the benefits of the programme is that we have had no serious injuries to date.
“Damien Mordon provides physio services to the squad, both off and on pitch. Damien, along with our doctor, Padraig Sheeran, have efficiently managed the injuries we’ve had, allowing for appropriate return-to-play scheduling for the players.
“Brian Fitzgerald have given us video analysis of a very high calibre throughout the development and match programme. His work and insightful comment have been very valuable, while Mo Dempsey, our kit manager, has supported the squad and continues to be a ‘legend’!”
Kelly continued: “Wayne, Jamie, Brendan and Seamus, the coaches, have worked tirelessly throughout the year to identify players and working with them individually, as pods and as a whole squad, with the one aim of allowing the players to maximise their potential and for the squad to achieve.
“In the games, the coaches want to see the players perform to their potential and apply what they’ve learnt over the period of the five training camps. To play for your country is a major honour and we’re sure that this squad of players, led by their captain Conor Farrell, will perform with both intelligence and passion. We’re looking forward with great anticipation to seeing two great games of rugby this week.”
Hosts England opened the festival with their first win in three seasons, a hard-fought 7-5 defeat of France which came on the back of a terrific defensive display. Sebastien Camiade and James Spencer swapped early tries with Jamie Shillcock’s conversion splitting the sides over the remaining scoreless 61 minutes.
Both the English and French team managers spoke highly afterwards of the performance of up-and-coming IRFU referee Oisin Quinn who was in charge of the U-18 competition’s first fixture.
IRELAND UNDER-18 CLUBS Squad (2015 International Triangular Festival, Hartpury College, Gloucestershire, April 1-4):
Backs (11) –
Luke Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Jack Combes (Hartpury College/Exiles)
Liam Coombes (Skibbereen/Munster)
Darragh Cummins (Sligo/Connacht)
Ciaran Frawley (Skerries/Leinster)
Dominic Gorard (Ealing Trailfinders/St. Benedict’s/Exiles)
Otto Gray (Canford School/Exiles)
Peter Howard (Cill Dara/Leinster)
Conor Nash (Navan/Leinster)
Sean O’Brien (Mullingar/Leinster)
Niall Saunders (Harlequins/Epsom College/Exiles)
Forwards (13) –
Jack Aungier (Suttonians/Leinster)
Paul Boyle (Gorey/Leinster)
Joe Carley (Enniscorthy/Leinster)
Eoin Corcoran (Longford/Leinster)
Conor Farrell (Navan/Leinster) (capt)
Alan Fitzgerald (Young Munster/Munster)
Conor Hand (Navan/Leinster)
Conor Maguire (Boyne/Leinster)
Sean Masterson (Portlaoise/Leinster)
Ian McCarthy (Highfield/Munster)
Tadgh McElroy (Dundalk/Leinster)
Greg McGrath (Wexford Wanderers/Leinster)
Jack Regan (Birr/Leinster)
IRELAND U-18 CLUBS’ FIXTURES:
Wednesday, April 1: Ireland U-18 Clubs v France U-18s, Hartpury College, 2pm
Saturday, April 4: England U-18 Counties v Ireland U-18 Clubs, Hartpury College, 11am