The Irish Universities Rugby Union (IURU), sponsored by Maxol, has announced a 23-man Ireland Students squad ahead of this Sunday’s international clash with the Scottish counterparts at Dub Lane in Belfast (kick-off 2.30pm).
The Ireland Students side is made up of representatives from 11 different academic institutions, including University of Bath prospect Finn Murphy. His selection is part of Irish Rugby’s progressive policy to embrace Irish-qualified players playing overseas and the 20-year-old flyer is ready to showcase his huge potential for the national Students team.
Having spent four years in the Academy set-up at Bristol, Murphy’s home town, the winger gained further experience with Cleve RFC and the Ireland Under-18 Sevens side, starring in the European Championship-winning side in 2016.
Another notable inclusion is Queen’s University captain and second row David Whitten, younger brother of twice-capped Ireland international and Exeter Chiefs centre Ian and former Ulster prop Alan. As well as having the size and edge for his core forward duties, Whitten is also known for his speed and mobility as a ball-carrier, which fits into the expansive game-plan of head coach David O’Mahony.
Also selected up front for Ireland Students are dynamic hooker Dan Sheehan and flanker Max Kearney of Dublin University, former Ireland Under-20 number 8 Conall Boomer of University of Ulster and former Aurillac flanker Kelvin Browne of Limerick Institute of Technology. Another former Ireland Under-20 representative, Greg McGrath of IT Carlow, joins fellow prop Shane O’Hanlon of UCC to complete an impressive front row.
UCC out-half James Taylor is an exciting play-maker with an eye for the break and there is considerable attacking talent outside him in the backs, including the likes of Dublin University skipper Colm Hogan, Cillian Burke from UCD, UCC centre Peter Sylvester and Murphy.
Five of the squad represented the Ireland Students last year, including starting second row JJ O’Dea of DCU and scrum half Rowan Osborne of Dublin University, and they are led by former Munster centre Cian Bohane who has been in superb form for UCC in Division 1A of the All-Ireland League this season.
The fact there are three university teams in the top flight of the All-Ireland League is testament to the strength of third level rugby at present and UCC, UCD and Dublin University are unsurprisingly well represented in the squad.
This week’s international match is part of Queen’s 150th anniversary celebrations and the Belfast university, who are playing in Division 2A of the AIL, have three players in the squad – Whitten is joined by his Queen’s team-mates, former Ulster Academy hooker Alexander Clarke and centre Rory Bell. It will be a very proud day for these Queen’s representatives wearing their Ireland jersey at their home club in this historic year.
With players also from Maynooth University, Limerick Institute of Technology, Carlow Institute of Technology, Dublin City University and the Garda College, there is a broad representation of third level talent for a match that will showcase the vibrancy of student rugby in Ireland as well as providing an international stage for players to further their rugby careers.
IRELAND STUDENTS Team & Replacements (v Scottish Students, Universities International Match, Dub Lane, Queen’s University RFC, Sunday, February 10, kick-off 2.30pm):
15. Cillian Burke (University College Dublin)
14. Colm Hogan (Dublin University)
13. Cian Bohane (University College Cork) (capt) *
12. Peter Sylvester (University College Cork)
11. Finn Murphy (University of Bath/IQ Rugby)
10. James Taylor (University College Cork) *
9. Rowan Osborne* (Dublin University) *
1. Shane O’Hanlon (University College Cork)
2. Dan Sheehan (Dublin University)
3. Greg McGrath (Institute of Technology Carlow)
4. David Whitten (Queen’s University Belfast)
5. JJ O’Dea (Dublin City University) *
6. Kelvin Brown (Limerick Institute of Technology)
7. Max Kearney (Dublin University)
8. Conall Boomer (University of Ulster)
16. Alexander Clarke (Queen’s University Belfast)
17. Bryan O’Connor (University College Cork)
18. Ntinga Mpiko (Institute of Technology Carlow) *
19. Brendan McSorley (Maynooth University)
20. Johnny McKeown (Dublin University)
21. Conor Lowndes (Dublin University)
22. Rory O’Connor (Garda College)
23. Rory Bell (Queen’s University Belfast)
* Denotes previously-capped Ireland Students player
IRELAND STUDENTS MANAGEMENT TEAM –
Head Coach: David O’Mahony
Forwards Coach: Brendan O’Connor
Team Manager: Alan Miller
Kit Manager: Jonathan Butler
Video Analyst: Tom O’Brien
Physiotherapist: Barry Smith
Doctor: Dr. Ernan Gallagher