England Saxons v Ireland Wolfhounds, Sandy Park
Saxons and Wolfhounds renew rivalry
January 27, 2012
Billy Twelvetrees on the charge for the Saxons against Italy A last year © Getty Images
The England Saxons go head-to-head with the Ireland Wolfhounds on Saturday at Sandy Park with both sets of players trying to make a late charge into the senior side ahead of the Six Nations.
Jon Callard has been handed the Saxons' reins with Stuart Lancaster stepping up to take charge of the senior side but there are a host of players named in the XV to face the Wolfhounds who would much prefer to be in Leeds with Lancaster.
The likes of Matt Banahan and Delon Armitage have been relegated to the Saxons after the disappointing 2011 World Cup and will be going out against the Wolfhounds aiming to prove a point to the likes of Andy Farrell and Lancaster. But as is common with the Saxons squad, there is a blend of youth and experience and there will be revenge on the menu after the Wolfhounds prevailed 20-11 last year at Ravenhill.
Ulster's Chris Henry was on the scoreboard last year for the Wolfhounds and he is handed the captain's armband this time around. Similar to the Saxons, the Irish side will have a host of players who would have hoped to be in the reckoning for a spot in the Six Nations party. But personnel from both squads will note examples like England's Manu Tuilagi and Chris Robshaw. The pair were on Saxons duty this time last year and are now firmly in the international reckoning for the senior side. The same can be said for Donncha Ryan who made the World Cup squad after featuring for the Wolfhounds the previous February. And the Wolfhounds boast a squad filled with Test talent as 13 of their match day squad have turned out for the senior side.
Sandy Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Saxons in the past after they prevailed there 34-5 over Italy back in 2007 and they will be hoping for more of the same with the likes of Lancaster, Farrell and Graham Rowntree all watching on.
England Saxons - Player to Watch: Billy Twelvetrees starts at inside centre for the Saxons - his preferred position - and he will aim to show the selectors, and also to his club side Leicester, that he is a natural midfield maestro. With the 23-year-old apparently on the verge of signing for Gloucester, Twelvetrees will be looking to shine on the international stage.
England Saxons - Team News: The Saxons are captained by James Gaskell at blindside with Andy Saull and Thomas Waldrom partnering him in the back-row. London Irish's Matt Garvey and Harlequins' George Robson take the second-row berths with Paul Doran-Jones, Joe Gray and Matt Mullan in the front-row. The half-backs have a youthful feel with 19-year-old Ben Spencer partnering 21-year-old Freddie Burns. Twelvetrees starts alongside Harlequins' Matt Hopper in the centres with Matt Banahan and Delon Armitage joined by the fourth Quins player in the starting line up - Ugo Monye - in the back three.
Ireland Wolfhounds - Player to Watch: Blindside John Muldoon starts for the Wolfhounds and he will be looking to continue his excellent run of form following his man-of-the-match performance against Quins last Friday. Muldoon is one of four Connacht players in the starting XV and with the feel good factor still prevalent in the camp after the Irish sides' impressive performances in the Heineken Cup, the Saxons will need to be wary of the inform blindside.
Ireland Wolfhounds - Team News: Gavin Duffy starts at fullback with David Kearney and Simon Zebo joining him in the back three. Eoin O'Malley and Nevin Spence start in the centres with Ian Keatley and Isaac Boss at half-back. Leinster's Rhys Ruddock anchors the back of the scrum at No.8 with Muldoon and captain Henry alongside him. Mike McCarthy and Dan Tuohy get the nod in the second-row while Stephen Archer, Damien Varley and Brett Wilkinson form the front-row.
Key Battle: Simon Zebo is up against Ugo Monye on the wing in what promises to be an epic showdown between the pair of flyers. Zebo scored a hat-trick for Munster last weekend and Monye has been slowly re-finding his best form which saw him win a Test cap for the British & Irish Lions back in 2009.
Trivia: Only five of the Saxons named in the matchday squad have played for England: Delon Armitage, Ugo Monye, Matt Banahan, Paul Doran-Jones and Paul Hodgson.
Stats: John Muldoon is the most experienced Wolfhound in the side with 10 caps at this level to his name
"We've discussed the matter with both Leicester and Saracens and felt we needed to act decisively by bringing in an extra scrum-half as a precaution until the outcome of the case is known."
"Eoin [O'Malley] and Nevin have done well over the last couple of days as a pairing and I am looking forward to see how both Simon [Zebo] and David Kearney travel on the wings after a good couple of weeks for them with their provinces."
Prediction: The Saxons will be buoyed by the renaissance Lancaster is undertaking in the senior side while the Irish will be riding off their province's electric form in the Heineken Cup. The Saxons to edge it by five or less points.
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