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

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

There are no points on offer for tonight’s victors in Galway, but there is still plenty to play for with players from both teams hoping to force their way into the Six Nations reckoning.

‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, January 25

O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS v ENGLAND SAXONS, the Sportsground, 7.35pm (live RTÉ Two/www.RTE.ie island of Ireland only)

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Team News: Number 8 James Coughlan will lead the O2 Ireland Wolfounds against England Saxons as international rugby comes to the Sportsground in Galway on Friday night.

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney has named eight uncapped players in the Wolfhounds starting line-up, including team captain Coughlan.

Ulster duo Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall form the half-back partnership and are joined in the back-line by Connacht favourites Robbie Henshaw and David McSharry.

Up front Mike Sherry packs down between the recently capped David Kilcoyne and Michael Bent, while Lewis Stevenson will combine with Devin Toner in the second row.

Kevin McLaughlin and the uncapped Tommy O’Donnell complete the back row with Munster ace Coughlan.

Commenting on Coughlan’s selection as skipper, Kidney said: “It means a lot to him and that’s important to have someone in that position. He has experience captaining sides.

“You don’t want to be lumbering too many fellas with jobs they’re not used to. It sits easy on James’ shoulders and has done since his underage days and won’t take away from his game.”

Tickets for the game are available from Ticketmaster and from the Connacht Branch offices available up to 4pm on Friday and then from 4pm at the ticket booth at the Main Stand gate of the stadium.

Meanwhile, five players will make their debuts for England Saxons when they line out at the home of Connacht Rugby.

Elliot Daly from London Wasps, Saracens’ Joel Tomkins and Leicester out-half George Ford are in the back-line of a young Saxons outfit, while Saracens pair George Kruis and Will Fraser start in the back row.

The replacements also set to make their first appearances at this level are former England Under-20 forwards Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Shaun Knight (Gloucester) and ex-rugby league international Kyle Eastmond (Bath).

Leicester’s Jordan Crane will captain the side after helping steer his club into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup last weekend.

Crane is one of six full internationals in the team along with Matt Mullan, Paul Doran Jones, Joe Simpson, Jordan Turner-Hall and Richard Wigglesworth.

O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht); Andrew Trimble (Ballymena/Ulster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), David McSharry (UCD/Connacht), Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Paul Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster), Michael Bent (Dublin University/Leinster), Lewis Stevenson (Malone/Ulster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (St.Mary’s College/Leinster), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), James Coughlan (Dolphin/Munster) (capt).

Replacements: Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon /Ulster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster).

ENGLAND SAXONS: Elliot Daly (London Wasps); Christian Wade (London Wasps), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Tom Biggs (Bath); George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); Nick Wood (Gloucester), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), George Robson (Harlequins), George Kruis (Saracens), Will Fraser (Saracens), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers) (capt).

Replacements: Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Kieran Brookes (Leicester Tigers), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Jamie Gibson (London Irish), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), George Lowe (Harlequins), Kyle Eastmond (Bath).

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Chris Williams (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): O2 Ireland Wolfhounds to win: 4/7; Draw: 20/1; England Saxons to win: 11/8

Pre-Match Quotes: James Coughlan (O2 Ireland Wolfhounds) – “It’s an opportunity for everybody. It’s not being dismissed as ‘off you go now lads, play your game and we’ll see you again at the end of the Six Nations’.

“We’ve been in the meetings. We’ve being going through game plans and having a look at the Welsh stuff, so the carrot is there.

“It’s time to go out and perform now and I’m sure it’s exactly the same for the Saxons. All those lads will be champing at the bit to show the coaches what they’re worth to try and get into that elite group.”

Jon Callard (England Saxons) – “This is a dynamic young side with an average age of less than 24 and the players have a chance to show that they can play a major part of the future of English rugby over the coming years.

“The blend of forward power and pace in the back-line makes it an exciting one to be involved with.

“We’re facing an experienced Irish side in this opening game and the challenge is to step up and deliver a high quality performance in front of a passionate crowd in Galway.”

Recent Meetings –

2009: Churchill Cup final: England Saxons 22 Ireland ‘A’ 49, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver
2010: England Saxons 17 Ireland ‘A’ 13, Recreation Ground
2011: O2 Ireland Wolfhounds 20 England Saxons 11, Ravenhill
2012: England Saxons 23 O2 Ireland Wolfhounds 17, Sandy Park