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Ulster Bank Club International Preview: Ireland Club XV v England Counties

Ulster Bank Club International Preview: Ireland Club XV v England Counties

Ireland’s top club players will combine once again for two fixtures this season. First up they will entertain England Counties at Temple Hill on Friday night before renewing rivalries with their Scottish counterparts in Ayr next month.

ULSTER BANK CLUB INTERNATIONAL MATCH: Friday, February 8

IRELAND CLUB XV v ENGLAND COUNTIES, Temple Hill, Cork Constitution FC, 7.30pm

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Team News: Ireland Club XV coaches Conor Twomey and David Murphy have finalised the 22-man squad for the Ireland Club XV v England Counties game at Cork Constitution FC.

Cork Constitution’s own Gerry Hurley will captain the side and will be partnered at half-back by Craig Ronaldson of Division 1A leaders Lansdowne.

The back-line has a depth of experience from last season with the half-backs and the centre partnership of Stuart Morrow and Killian Lett.

New caps Darragh Fanning, Tim McCoy and Richie Mullane make up an exciting back-three.

The Ireland management have added Ben Reilly and William Ryan to the squad due to injuries sustained in the Ulster Bank League last weekend.

Reilly comes into the second row with Ryan positioned at blindside flanker. Ed Kelly packs down alongside Reilly in the second row, while Ryan joins Danny Kenny and the highly experience Frank Cogan in the back row. Cogan has captained the Club side in recent seasons.

Colm McMahon and Kevin Griffin will prop down either side of the experience Ger Slattery in the front row.

In all, there are 12 Ulster Bank League clubs represented from the top two divisions in the 22-man squad.

There is a strong bench and in particular Dolphin’s prolific points scorer, Barry Keeshan, and his previous playing half-back playing partner Sam Cronin are a combination that could be a factor in the outcome of the result on Friday should the opportunity arise.

Cork Constitution FC President Finian O’Driscoll said: “We are delighted to welcome the two teams to Temple Hill for this special occasion as we mark the opening of our new clubhouse.

“It promises to be a great evening for all the family with some of the best players from the club game involved. We hope to see thousands of supporters in Cork Con on Friday night.”

Meanwhile, James Inglis is one of 10 players making their England Counties debuts against the Ireland Club side – a start made all the sweeter after missing the opportunity three years ago with a broken toe.

The Esher lock will pack down at Cork Con alongside seven players from different clubs with a total of 12 clubs represented in the English starting line-up.

Experience comes in the form of hooker Matt Hall and flanker Dave Allen, who both play in this fixture for the fourth time, and full-back Peter Hodgkinson who has featured twice against the men in green.

Out-half and captain Rory Teague, twice man-of-the-match during the tour to East Africa last summer, and Ealing back rower Sam Shires complete the five starters with England Counties caps to their name.

Although they carved out an impressive 34-16 win over Ireland Club XV in Preston last year, the England Counties team are still chasing their first win on Irish soil.

* Gates open at 6pm. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booth outside the grounds. There will be no car parking in Temple Hill on the night. We request that match patrons respect our neighbours by not parking on the double yellow lines outside local housing estates.

IRELAND CLUB XV: Richie Mullane (Shannon); Tim McCoy (Clontarf), Killian Lett (Clontarf), Stuart Morrow (Ballynahinch), Darragh Fanning (St. Mary’s College); Craig Ronaldson (Lansdowne), Gerry Hurley (Cork Constitution) (capt); Colm McMahon (St. Mary’s College), Ger Slattery (Young Munster), Kevin Griffin (Shannon), Ed Kelly (UL Bohemians), Ben Reilly (Clontarf), William Ryan (UCC), Danny Kenny (UCD), Frank Cogan (Clontarf).

Replacements: Pat O’Regan (Old Belvedere), Risteard Byrne (UCD), Glenn Moore (Malone), Neville Melbourne (Young Munster), Sam Cronin (Clontarf), Barry Keeshan (Dolphin), James Thompson (Ballynahinch).

ENGLAND COUNTIES: Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing); Ollie Marchon (Old Albanian), Jack Adams (Cinderford), Scott Barrow (Fylde), Nev Edwards (Rosslyn Park); Rory Teague (Blackheath), Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park); Tom Fidler (Cambridge), Matt Hall (Blaydon), Mark George (Stourbridge), Will Warden (Richmond), James Inglis (Esher), Sam Shires (Ealing), Dave Allen (Blackheath), Joe Burton (Loughborough Students).

Replacements: David Dickinson (Tynedale), Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Ben West (Cinderford), Billy Johnson (Old Albanian), Lewis Barker (Coventry), Chris Elder (Esher), Will Hurrell (Stourbridge).

Referee: Cédric Marchat (France)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Barrie O’Connell (both Ireland)

Pre-Match Quotes – Gerry Hurley (Ireland Club XV): “It is great being captain for Cork Con this year and now the Ireland Club side again. I think you get used to the role and you enjoy it.

“I get to have a say in things so that’s good and it’s something I enjoy rather than feeling under pressure, so it’s a positive thing.

“Getting the opportunity to represent your country at any level is a great achievement and we take it very seriously, all of the players. We try to have a bit of fun at training like all squads, but we work hard, and it’s a great honour and something we are all proud of.

“There is a good spread (of players) from across the country and as a competition, the AIL, is a hotly contested one with no easy game so it’s quite right that there is good representation from the different clubs.

“As players, we have to make sure that we do our upmost to beat England and we are hopeful there will be a good crowd here on Friday night.

“It is on us to try and play a good brand of football and put on some entertainment, still not losing sight that we have to win. We’ll be hoping the crowd will get behind us and make it as lively as possible.”

Jan Bonney (England Counties): “We have momentum from last year and six of those winning players are back in the squad. We are aware of our record in Ireland but we are not thinking about the past.

“There is belief in this squad and we are focused on playing a game which earns the win on Friday night.

“The players have gelled well and because of their quality we have been able to progress quickly in the training sessions.

“With players coming from different clubs they all bring something different to the party and have ideas to input. We have real strength and variety on the bench to ensure that we maintain the intensity for the full 80 minutes.”

Ireland Club XV: Previous Matches –

2006: Ireland Club XV 30 Scotland Club XV 13, Donnybrook

2007: Ireland Club XV 20 England Counties 17, Donnybrook; Scotland Club XV 18 Ireland Club XV 11, Boroughmuir RFC

2008: Ireland Club XV 20 Scotland Club XV 15, Donnybrook

2009: Ireland Club XV 13 England Counties 13, Donnybrook; Scotland Club XV 31 Ireland Club XV 18, Watsonians RFC

2010: England Counties 29 Ireland Club XV 25, Stourbridge RFC; Ireland Club XV 21 Scotland Club XV 18, Donnybrook

2011: Scotland Club XV 30 Ireland Club XV 32, Netherdale, Gala RFC; Ireland Club XV 16 England Counties 8, Anglesea Road

2012: Ireland Club XV 26 Scotland Club XV 21, Anglesea Road, Old Belvedere RFC; England Counties 34 Ireland Club XV 16, Preston Grasshoppers RFC