Wednesday 21 February 2018

Henshaw leads pack of Wolfhounds hungry to catch the eye

Robbie Henshaw of Connacht
Robbie Henshaw of Connacht
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WOLFHOUNDS games rarely burn bright, usually fading quickly from the memory, but for the 23 players selected for tonight's clash with England's second string in Gloucester, this represents a huge opportunity.

For some it is a chance to prove their fitness; for others, their worth. Joe Schmidt has had a good look at them all in training this week and now they have a chance to make a good impression on the pitch.

The Ireland coach will reduce his squad to around the 30 mark early next week.

The key areas of wing, back-row and prop will be closely watched, but the New Zealander is likely to keep an open mind towards any others who put their hands up.

Robbie Henshaw is one who can make a big impression at outside centre, with his partnership with Darren Cave an interesting one, while Ian Madigan, who featured off the bench in all three November Tests, could do with some good game time behind a dominant pack.

ABILITIES

Given the ball-carrying abilities in the eight selected, he should get that, while Martin Moore is capable of preventing the type of scrum malfunction that so blighted last season's effort.

The back three of Robin Copeland, Rhys Ruddock and Tommy O'Donnell can all get over the gain line, while Iain Henderson and Dave Kilcoyne are proven carriers.

Rob Herring is something of an unknown proposition to those outside Ulster, but the Cape Town native is another dynamic option at hooker and a big tackler to boot.

The English team lacks the experience of their Irish counterparts, who are almost all first-choice Heineken Cup players and feature only three men without senior international experience.

In contrast, the Saxons have only three capped players in their line-up, with Gloucester pair Freddie Burns, Charlie Sharples and Wasps' Joe Simpson the only full internationals.

Captain Calum Clark will bring a hard edge to proceedings, and Burns will be looking to impress as he drops down from the senior squad. That said, this Irish team looks formidable. Even away from home, with so much at stake in the selection race, they should prevail.

Verdict: Ireland Wolfhounds

ENGLAND SAXONS – E Daly; A Watson, M Hopper, S Hill, C Sharples; F Burns, J Simpson; A Waller, J George, T Mercey, C Matthews, G Kruis, C Clark (capt), L Wallace, D Ewers. Reps: D Ward, N Catt,S Wilson, E Stooke, S Dickinson, D Lewis, H Slade, R Miller

IRELAND WOLFHOUNDS – F Jones; F McFadden, R Henshaw, D Cave, C Gilroy; I Madigan, I Boss; D Kilcoyne, R Herring, M Moore; I Henderson, D Tuohy; R Ruddock (capt), T O'Donnell, R Copeland. Reps: R Strauss, J McGrath, S Archer, R Diack, J Murphy, K Marmion, I Keatley, S Zebo.

Ref – I Davies (WRU)

SAXONS V WOLFHOUNDS,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 1, 5.0

Irish Independent

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