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‘A’ International Preview: England Saxons v O2 Ireland Wolfhounds

‘A’ International Preview: England Saxons v O2 Ireland Wolfhounds

Anthony Foley takes a talented O2 Ireland Wolfhounds squad to Kingsholm for the annual clash with England Saxons, with the men in green determined to gain revenge for last year’s 14-10 defeat in Galway.

‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Saturday, January 25

ENGLAND SAXONS v O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS, Kingsholm, 5pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/updates on RTÉ Radio 1)

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Team News: Rhys Ruddock will lead the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds against England Saxons at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. There is also a welcome return for hooker Richardt Strauss who has been named on the replacements bench.

The squad announced by Wolfhounds head coach Anthony Foley contains some exciting combinations right across the selection.

The front row sees Munster, Ulster and Leinster combine in the shape of David Kilcoyne, Rob Herring and Martin Moore, the latter two being newcomers at this level.

The engine room is an all-Ulster affair with Iain Henderson and Dan Tuohy named in the second row.

Rhys Ruddock, Tommy O’Donnell and Wolfhounds debutant Robin Copeland form an all-action back row unit, while Leinster’s Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan pair up at half-back.

Darren Cave and Robbie Henshaw will join forces in an exciting centre partnership with the back-three made up of Craig Gilroy, Fergus McFadden and Felix Jones.

The Wolfhounds can count on a strong bench which includes Jack McGrath, Stephen Archer, Robbie Diack, Jordi Murphy, Kieran Marmion and Ian Keatley as well as two players who have recently returned from long injury lay-offs – Richardt Strauss and Simon Zebo.

Meanwhile, Calum Clark will captain England Saxons when they renew rivalries with their Irish counterparts in Gloucester.

The Northampton Saints flanker – making his first Saxons appearance – leads a side with an average age of 24. The Saxons won 14-10 when the teams met in Galway last year.

Seven others in the English starting line-up are making their debuts at this level: winger Anthony Watson (Bath), centre Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), prop Alex Waller (Northampton Saints), hooker Jamie George (Saracens), lock Charlie Matthews and flanker Luke Wallace (both Harlequins), and number 8 Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs).

Watson, 19, lined up with the Saxons after being temporarily released from England’s RBS 6 Nations squad to replace injured Bath team-mate Semesa Rokoduguni (knee).

There are only three full internationals in the Saxons side with eight caps between them – London Wasps scrum half Joe Simpson (one cap), Gloucester out-half Burns (three) and winger Charlie Sharples (four).

ENGLAND SAXONS: Elliot Daly (London Wasps); Anthony Watson (Bath), Matt Hopper (Harlequins), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester); Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Joe Simpson (London Wasps); Alex Waller (Northampton Saints), Jamie George (Saracens), Tom Mercey (Northampton Saints), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints) (capt), Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs).

Replacements: Dave Ward (Harlequins), Nathan Catt (Bath), Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester), Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints), Dave Lewis (Exeter Chiefs), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Rob Miller (Sale Sharks).

O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster); Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster); Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), Robin Copeland (Cardiff Blues).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster), Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht), Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster).

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Waynes Davies, Jon Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): England Saxons to win: 10/11; Draw: 18/1; O2 Ireland Wolfhounds to win: 10/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Tommy O’Donnell (O2 Ireland Wolfhounds) – “A year on I am a lot more confident. There is no room to sit back. Last year I was a bit more overawed. Last year in Galway I was on a five-day turnaround so I had less time to learn the terminology.

“It was my first time in camp. This time I’ve been in camp a couple of times. I know the terminology, I know what to do. I know the work that needs to be done, I just need to take the opportunity.

“It is pretty much a lot of the guys who played on the summer tour and the guys who played on (the Emerging Ireland) tour to Georgia who are coming through and getting the opportunities.

“It’s an opportunity for whoever gets the nod – it’s a case of go out and impress. I haven’t had a chance to play with Joe (Schmidt) as the coach yet so I need to nail down what my role is and go out and show what I can do.”

Joe Lydon (RFU head of international player development) – “The players in this Saxons squad have worked very hard in a short week and there will be a lot of tremendous talent from the Aviva Premiership on show this Saturday and against Scotland ‘A’ in Glasgow on Friday week.

“They’ve been helped by an outstanding contribution from the staff and coaching team led by Jon Callard, Simon Hardy and Paul Gustard.

“Players can make an immediate step from the Saxons into the senior side but we’re also looking at the development of those players with the longer term potential to push for places in England’s World Cup squads in 2015, 2019 and beyond.

“First and foremost, though, we want to win against the Wolfhounds and Scotland ‘A’. Tthe recent history of these games tells us it will be hard work against two fiercely competitive teams.”

Pre-Match Links –

Irish Rugby TV: O2 Ireland Wolfhounds Press Conference

Irish Rugby TV: Tommy O’Donnell & Craig Gilroy

Recent Meetings –

2011: O2 Ireland Wolfhounds 20 England Saxons 11, Ravenhill
2012: England Saxons 23 O2 Ireland Wolfhounds 17, Sandy Park
2013: O2 Ireland Wolfhounds 10 England Saxons 14, the Sportsground