Friday 24 November 2017

Elwood wants exciting Wolfhounds backline to show their bark and bite

David Kelly

David Kelly

Irish rugby fans will get a first glimpse of a potential 2015 World Cup three-quarters line when the Irish Wolfhounds take on England Saxons in Exeter tomorrow.

Gavin Duffy will provide the experienced anchor in the potentially thrilling backline with David Kearney, younger brother of Lions star Rob, and last week's Heineken Cup hat-trick hero for Munster Simon Zebo starting on the wings.

Ulster's Nevin Spence and Eoin O'Malley will form a new centre partnership at this level outside a half-back partnership of current number two to Ronan O'Gara in Munster, Ian Keatley, and the veteran Isaac Boss.

"The games against the Saxons are always highly competitive affairs as you would expect and results have tended to go with the home side," says head coach of the Wolfhounds, Eric Elwood.

"But I think we have a good mix in our side and the key message is that we have to match them on all fronts, especially in the physical stakes, to come away with a win.

"Eoin and Nevin have done well over the last couple of days as a pairing and I am looking forward to see how both Simon and David travel on the wings after a good couple of weeks for them with their provinces."

Ulster back-row Chris Henry will lead a side which matches youth and experience, with nine of the squad uncapped at senior level.

Damian Varley starts at hooker alongside experienced Connacht loose-head prop Brett Wilkinson and young Stephen Archer, who has recently broken into the Munster match squad and been part of his province's Heineken Cup run.

Dan Tuohy wins his third cap at this level and partners Mike McCarthy in the second row, with John Muldoon the most experienced player in the squad at this level with 10 Wolfhounds caps.

Captain Henry will play at open-side, with Welsh-born Rhys Ruddock starting at No 8 to win his first cap for the Wolfhounds.

"We have a touch more experience in our pack which I think will be important for this game," acknowledges Elwood.

Sale Sharks' James Gaskell will lead the England Saxons for the first time as they feature a clutch of England rejects such as Delon Armitage, Matt Banahan and Ugo Monye amongst their three-quarters.

The 21-year-old Gaskell, who captained the Sharks last season, leads a side with an average age of just 24 and four months and also features former Irish prop prospect Paul Doran-Jones.

Centre Matt Hopper, half-backs Freddie Burns and Ben Spencer and No 8 Thomas Waldrom feature for the Saxons for the first time.

Irish Independent

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