No point on commenting on the extended Ireland squad at the minute. Even after siphoning of the A team players it remains so large and has so many meaningless additions it appears as though each player was asked to bring a mate along!
IRELAND ‘A’ Squad: Neil Best (Northampton Saints), Isaac Boss (Ulster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Gavin Duffy (Connacht), Denis Fogarty (Munster), Chris Henry (Ulster), Shane Horgan (Leinster), Ian Humphreys (Ulster), Ian Keatley (Connacht), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Kevin McLaughlin (Leinster), Johne Murphy (Leicester Tigers), Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Peter Stringer (Munster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Dan Tuohy (Ulster), Brett Wilkinson (Connacht), Bryan Young (Ulster), AN Other
As befitting a fixture at Ravenhill the A team squad is awash with Ulster players past and present in a strong enough mix of youth and experience.
I suspect Young will start in the front row with Tuohy in the second and we’ll have a chance to see “what might have been” with Best and Henry in the back row.
Boss, Humphreys and Cave will form the spine of the backs but I expect to see Trimble starting from the bench due to his ability to cover centre and wing and they’ll want the abrasive Horgan out there early on.
Much as Horgan went off my “Players to Like” chart a few years ago, when he started abusing referees and patting opponents on the head (a practice that only the obnoxious Dowling seems to be perpetuating this year), you have to grudgingly admire his arrogant confidence. Something that Ulster players in general lack and in all honesty something they’ll need to find if they are going to move up and party with the big boys.
Maybe it’s time to get the boxing gloves out again at Newforge!
My starting XV is as follows: (1-8) Young, AN Other, Wilkinson, Toner, Tuohy, Best, McLaughlin, Henry. (9-15) Boss, Humphreys, Murphy, McFadden, Cave, Horgan, Duffy. (16-22) Fogarty, Ross, Ryan, O’Brien, Stringer, Keatley, Trimble.
There are still tickets available and all sorts of packages to try out the new stand.