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

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

The O2 Ireland Wolfhounds have an immediate chance to bounce back from last week’s disappointing result against Scotland ‘A’, with England Saxons visiting Ravenhill for an exciting Friday night clash.

‘A’ INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, February 4


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* 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: There are two changes in the back-line from last Friday’s outing against Scotland ‘A’, with the 21-year-old David Kearney making his O2 Ireland Wolfhounds debut at full-back in place of Gavin Duffy.

Kearney’s Leinster colleague Isaac Boss moves up from the bench to take over at scrum half from Tomas O’Leary, who will start for the senior side on Saturday.

Declan Fitzpatrick gets a chance to wear the green jersey on his home pitch at Ravenhill, coming in at tighthead prop for the injured Tony Buckley.

The Wolfhounds will field an all-Munster second row partnership in Donnacha Ryan and Mick O’Driscoll, with Devin Toner and Ian Nagle making way. Nagle will provide back-up as a replacement.

The final change to the side is at blindside flanker where Connacht’s Mike McCarthy, who is another Wolfhounds debutant, replaces Kevin McLaughlin.

Commenting on the Belfast encounter, Ireland Wolfhounds head coach Eric Elwood said: “I think there were some good things we can take out of the last game (in Scotland), but this week sees another step up for the players in terms of opposition.

“While some of the guys have moved onto the senior squad which is great to see, we have some quality experience coming back into our team with Mick O’Driscoll and Donnacha (Ryan) giving us some great grunt in the forwards, which will be really important this Friday.

“I want the players who were involved last week to learn from the game where, in the first half, we really bossed the contact area.

“If we can do that and be accurate in the set piece, we have enough talent in the side to cause any side real problems at this level, but we will have to improve to match a good Saxons team.

“Playing at home is a great plus for us and hopefully we will have a big Ravenhill crowd to make it a good atmosphere to help give those home supporters a good performance and a win.”

Meanwhile, England Saxons head coach Stuart Lancaster has made three changes to the side that ran out 45-17 winners over Italy ‘A’ at Worcester last weekend.

Gloucester prop Paul Doran-Jones, London Wasps scrum half Joe Simpson and Bath full-back Nick Abendanon come into the team.

Doran-Jones, a member of the England elite squad, comes in for Joe Marler, with London Irish’s Alex Corbisiero swapping sides in the front row.

Simpson, another senior EPS player, takes over from Richard Wigglesworth, while Abendanon returns in place of Mike Brown of Harlequins.

O2 IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS: David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster); Johne Murphy (Young Munster/Munster), Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster); Ian Humphreys (Ballymena/Ulster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster); Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht), Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Willie Faloon (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster) (capt).

Replacements: Nigel Brady (Dungannon/Ulster), Jamie Hagan (Corinthians/Connacht), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution/Munster), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Fionn Carr (Galwegians/Connacht).

ENGLAND SAXONS: Nick Abendanon (Bath); James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), Ugo Monye (Harlequins); Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints), Joe Simpson (London Wasps); Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Lee Mears (Bath), Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester), Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), Christian Day (Northampton Saints), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) (capt), Luke Narraway (Gloucester).

Replacements: James Buckland (London Irish), Joe Marler (Harlequins), George Robson (Harlequins), Andrew Saull (Saracens), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins).

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Christophe Berdos, Cedric Marchat (both France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): O2 Ireland Wolfhounds to win: 13/10; Draw: 20/1; England Saxons to win: 4/7

Pre-Match Quotes: Chris Henry (O2 Ireland Wolfhounds) – “It’s always special running out for the Wolfhounds, especially at Ravenhill. Getting the nod as captain is great. We’re really looking forward to it.

“Everyone was very frustrated with the result (32-12) last week in Scotland. We have this week to turn things around. We’ve put that game to bed now, and we’re focused on trying to beat the Saxons.

“Both teams are trying to play for positions in the Six Nations squads. You look at the likes of Kevin McLaughlin, who played well and is now is up in the senior squad. Gavin Duffy, who had an oustanding game against Scotland ‘A’, and he’s been involved with the seniors.

“We know there’s a lot to play for, and we know that the coaches really watch these games to see how we react in a different environment to the provinces.

“It’s always challenging to be put into this environment, but it’s always good fun because everyone is there for the same goals – to keep achieving and be ambitious – and that doesn’t change this week.

“The Saxons have a strong team out, but something that Eric’s been focusing on is about ourselves. We know that if we play to our potential, we can beat anyone. If we start the game well and learn from our mistakes from last week, we’ll certainly be in with a shout.”

Stuart Lancaster (England Saxons) – “We were pleased with the performance (against Italy ‘A’), given that we went into the game with only three days’ preparation, but Ireland is a significantly different challenge and there are plenty of areas we need to improve.

“We’re away from home and Ireland will be on the rebound from their defeat against Scotland ‘A’ as well as looking to avenge their defeat at the Rec against us last year.

“So it’s about stepping up our intensity and focus this week. We’ll be going into the game with confidence but also very wary and respectful of what Ireland will bring.

“We’ve got one or two boys who have come back to us from Portugal where Martin Johnson and the senior coaches were keen to have a look at them. The boys who have come down have all been involved before and know the environment well.”

Pre-Match Links –

Elwood’s Wolfhounds Ready For Physical Battle

Henry At The Helm For Ravenhill Clash

Recent Meetings –

2008: Churchill Cup Pool B: England Saxons 34 Ireland ‘A’ 12, Fletcher’s Field, Toronto
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