Emerging Ireland have Georgia on their minds

Rhys Ruddock leads a team that contains three full caps in opening Tbilisi Cup match

Rhys Ruddock (right) pictured with team-mates (from left) Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss, James Heaslip and Sean O’Brien after Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup Final victory. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Rhys Ruddock (right) pictured with team-mates (from left) Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss, James Heaslip and Sean O’Brien after Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup Final victory. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho.

Thu, Jun 6, 2013, 12:18

Rhys Ruddock will lead the Emerging Ireland team in their opening fxture of the IRB Tbilisi Cup against hosts Georgia tomorrow night (10.0pm, Irish time). A South Africa President’s XV and Uruguay complete the quadrangular tournament.

Ruddock is one of only three players capped at senior level, the others are Dublin born, Munster outhalf Ian Keatley and Leinster tighthead prop Michael Bent.

Coach Allen Clarke has plenty of young talent at his disposal, particularly in a backline that includes Niall Morris, who won the Aviva Premership with the Licester Tigers, Ulster centre Michael Allen and Connacht duo Eoin Griffin and Tiernan O’Halloran.

St Mary’s College prop Jack McGrath enjoyed an excellent end to the season with Leinster while Ruddock is part of a backrow, alongside Dominic Ryan and Robbie Diack that is both athletic and quick.

Clarke explained: “The squad has gelled and prepared well. It’s a young side and there is huge potential there. The Georgian team are very physical and we have to match that.”

In squad news, Peter Nelson has come in to the squad replacing Andrew Conway who picked up a calf injury while training.

The new annual tournament is part of the IRB’s ongoing strategy of increasing the competition schedule for tier two nations.

Emerging Ireland: David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster); Niall Morris (Leicester Tigers), Eoin Griffin (Galwegians/Connacht), Michael Allen (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht); I Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Robert Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Michael Bent (Leinster); Lewis Stevenson (Malone/Ulster), David Foley (UL Bohemian/Munster), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s/Leinster, capt), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster). Replacements: Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Richard Lutton (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution/Munster), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), John Cooney (Lansdowne/Leinster), Noel Reid (Clontarf/Leinster), Brendan Macken (Blackrock/Leinster).

Emerging Ireland Fixtures.

IRB Tbilisi Cup (All times Irish)

Tomorrow: Georgia v Emerging Ireland, Avchala Stadium (10.0pm)

Tuesday: Emerging Ireland v South Africa President’s XV, Avchala Stadium (8.0pm)

Sunday, June 16th: Uruguay v Emerging Ireland, Avchala Stadium (8.0pm)