Thursday 23 November 2017

Irish look a bit green for Saxons

England Saxons v Irish Wolfhounds
Sandy Park, Saturday 5.0 Sky Sports 2

Coach Eric Elwood will look to transfer the magic of Connacht's 'against-all-odds' victory over Harlequins in the Heineken Cup into the Irish Wolfhounds' voyage to sink the England Saxons at Sandy Park in Exeter tonight.

He has decided to give half-a-dozen players their debuts at this level and surround them with a shell of experienced, battle-hardened veterans.

Leinster's strike duo of right wing Dave Kearney, 22, and centre Eoin O'Malley, 23, number eight Rhys Ruddock, 21, Munster's in-form left wing Simon Zebo, 21, and tighthead Stephen Archer, 23, and Ulster centre Nevin Spence, 21 make their debuts.

In addition, there are three other potential debut-makers on the bench in the form of Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan, Munster hooker Mike Sherry and Connacht tighthead Ronan Loughney.

Elwood is a canny operator and he knows that a shellacking from the Saxons is not in any of the Irish players' interests. That is why Connacht captain Gavin Duffy has been asked to seal off the ball at full-back.

Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss, Munster hooker Damien Varley and Connacht flank forward John Muldoon are three more men who know what it takes to survive in the trenches.

It is significant, however, that the captain's armband has been handed to Ulster's converted openside Chris Henry. He has been in tip-top condition and form for Ulster this season.

The Saxons mean business. Sale Shark lock James Gaskell will lead a selection with an average age of 24, rooted in the fast-improving half-backs of Freddie Burns, 21, and Ben Spencer, 19.

England Saxons: D Armitage; U Monye, M Hopper, B Twelvetrees, M Banahan; F Burns, B Spencer; M Mullan, J Gray, P Doran-Jones, M Garvey, G Robson, J Gaskell (capt), A Saul, T Waldrom.

Irish Wolfhounds: G Duffy; D Kearney, E O'Malley, N Spence, S Zebo; I Keatley, I Boss; B Wilkinson, D Varley, S Archer, D Tuohy, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, C Henry (capt), R Ruddock.

Verdict: Saxons By Des Berry

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