The O2 Ireland Wolfhounds will field a strong starting line-up for their renewal of rivalries with Scotland ‘A’ at Netherdale. A number of players will be hoping to impress in the first ‘A’ international fixture of 2011.
‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, January 28
SCOTLAND ‘A’ v O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS, Netherdale, 7.30pm
* Please note that there is no live television coverage of this game. We will have a match report on the website as soon as possible after full-time.
Team News: The O2 Ireland Wolfhounds squad is coached by former senior internationals Eric Elwood and Anthony Foley, with Ulster back rower Chris Henry named as captain.
Gavin Duffy moves from the senior squad to the Wolfhounds and will start at full-back, while Fergus McFadden has been called into the senior squad as cover with Ian Whitten replacing him for the trip to Scotland.
Ian Nagle will start for the Wolfhounds at Netherdale as both Donnacha Ryan and Dan Tuohy, who were named in the original squad, have been ruled out because of injury.
Munster lock Nagle will be partnered in the second row by Devin Toner, who recently extended his contract with Leinster.
In all, the matchday squad for the Wolfhounds’ first outing of 2011 includes nine players who are uncapped at ‘A’ level – Eoin O’Malley, Nevin Spence, Damien Varley, Nagle, Willie Faloon, Jamie Hagan, Andrew Browne, Dominic Ryan and Whitten.
Number 8 Henry captained the Wolfhounds to a 34-19 victory over a strong Scottish side at Ravenhill last February. There is free entry into Friday’s game in Galashiels.
After the Scotland trip, the Wolfhounds will be back on duty at Ravenhill next Friday night when they entertain England Saxons. Ticket are available to purchase here.
Meanwhile, Scotland ‘A’ are keen to erase the memory of that defeat to the Ireland Wolfhounds from almost twelve months ago.
Seven players who started the 25-0 November win over the USA Eagles have retained their places in the side which is coached by Australian Nick Scrivener.
Jim Thompson moves from the wing to full-back, while Lee Jones, a two-try hero against the Eagles, keeps hold of his spot on the left wing.
Ben Cairns and David Blair stay at outside centre and out-half respectively, while Jon Welsh and Geoff Cross team up again in the front row with Fraser McKenzie packing down behind them once more.
McKenzie’s second row partner will be Scott MacLeod, one of six players set to feature on Friday night who are in the full Scotland squad for the RBS 6 Nations Championship. Among them is scrum half Greig Laidlaw, who will captain the ‘A’ team.
Scotland ‘A’ have won their last two fixtures at the Borders venue, beating Tonga 38-7 in 2009 and the USA Eagles 25-0 last November.
SCOTLAND ‘A’: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh); Hefin O’Hare (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), John Houston (Edinburgh), Lee Jones (Edinburgh); David Blair (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh) (capt); Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh), Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: Fergus Thomson (Glasgow Warriors), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Peter Murchie (Glasgow Warriors), Colin Shaw (Glasgow Warriors).
O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); Johne Murphy (Young Munster/Munster), Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster); Ian Humphreys (Ballymena/Ulster), Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster); Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht), Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Willie Faloon (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster) (capt).
Replacements: Nigel Brady (Dungannon/Ulster), Jamie Hagan (Corinthians/Connacht), Andrew Browne (Galwegians/Connacht), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster), Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Whitten (Ballynahinch/Ulster).
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Chris White, Alan Hughes (both England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Scotland ‘A’ to win: 4/6; Draw: 20/1; O2 Ireland Wolfhounds to win: 6/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (O2 Ireland Wolfhounds) – “I think I said at the start that the players should be looking at this as an opportunity to try and put themselves in the frame for selection for the Ireland senior team and that is exaclty the way it is panning out.
“Fergus McFadden has already been brought into the senior squad even before the game has taken place, so it just shows that these guys are one performance away from making that step up.
“We have got a spread of eight internationals in the side, and guys like Tomas O’Leary, Tony Buckley and Gavin Duffy, as well as the others, will certainly focus on putting in their best personal performances to hopefully contribute to a win and get themselves in the picture for the senior team.
“While the nature of it is that the Wolfhounds come together for a short space of time, what we have been impressing on the players is to focus on the little parts they bring to the game and not worry about anything outside of the match against Scotland ‘A’ and hopefully the performances that they want will come out.
“As we expected, Scotland have selected an experienced side and the strong values of Scottish rugby still remain their ability to create really quick ruck ball,” added the former Ireland out-half.
“Our defence has to be right to guard against that and we will obviously want to try and impose our own attacking patterns on the game.
“Ian Humphreys and Tomas are the types of player who like to attack the spaces and along with the good attackers we have across the backs we should, conditions permitting, get a good, open game.
“The first job is to create the platform to do that, so the pack will have to really produce the goods and win that vital collision area.”
Nick Scrivener (Scotland ‘A’) – “All week, the message to the players has been very clear – we want to play positive, attacking rugby, and one of the things that will allow us to do that is making sure we win the collisions.
“I feel that’s massively important against any Irish side. If you allow them to get momentum and quick ball, they always have pace, power and ability in the backs and they’re going to hurt you.
“We’ve picked a team that definitely has the ability to take it to the Irish in contact, and the players understand the importance of doing well in that area.
“I’m excited about the side we’ve put together. There’s a lot of ability and a lot of hunger there. The challenge is to bring it all together and produce a performance that’s good enough to win an international game for Scotland.
“There’s a definite added incentive for our guys knowing they’re being watched with the RBS 6 Nations Championship in mind, but, as we’ve been saying to them all week, their most important performance is their next one, and that’s for Scotland ‘A’ on Friday.
“Playing well individually and collectively, and winning this game, is everyone’s sole focus.
“The crowds for the last two games in Gala have been really impressive, both in terms of the number of people who came along and the support they gave the players.
“This week and next are going to be really challenging matches for our guys, and that’s when the backing of a vocal crowd can really come into its own. Myself and the players will be doing everything we can to give them another win to celebrate.”
Recent Meetings –
2007: Churchill Cup Plate final: Ireland ‘A’ 22 Scotland ‘A’ 21, Twickenham
2008: Scotland ‘A’ 67 Ireland ‘A’ 7, McDiarmid Park
2009: Ireland ‘A’ 35 Scotland ‘A’ 10, The RDS
2010: Ireland Wolfhounds 34 Scotland ‘A’ 19, Ravenhill