O’Hara to skipper Irish in hometown opener with Wales

PBC CORK’s Brian O’Hara has the honour of leading Ireland out before his hometown crowd for their opening game of the U18 Six Nations festival tonight (Musgrave Park, 7.30pm).

The game is the first of three for Ireland in a week-long festival which features England, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Peter Melia’s side face Scotland on Saturday and Italy on Tuesday and the coach would love a winning start.

He explained: “The next week promises to be a great occasion for the local Cork and Irish sporting public. The squad is very excited about playing at home in the festival and while being the home team brings its own pressures, we are really encouraged by the enthusiasm among the players.”

“The festival is about focusing on the experience for the players of performing at international level and hopefully we can start the festival with a positive result. Wales are traditionally very strong at this level and the squad will have to be at its very best to win this evening.”

Ray Crotty and Nevin Spence have been ruled out through injury and replaced by Craig O’Hanlon and Gavin Nugent. The former starts on the wing with Nugent on the replacements bench. Added Ireland manager Lorcan Balfe: “I think we have a very good side, a team capable of beating anyone. But it’s always question of how well they perform on the day.”

Melia’s Welsh counterpart Simon King, who expects a testing encounter, has named a strong side with a pack backboned by a large contingent from the Dragons with Blues hooker Rhys Williams named as captain.

Said King: “It doesn’t come much tougher than the host team in the first game but in every tournament you look forward to getting a game under your belt and we have prepared well. We’ve been down to Musgrave Park and we are really pleased with the facilities.”

Admission to all games is free of charge.

Today’s Schedule: England v Italy, Temple Hill, 5pm; France v Scotland, Cork Institute of Technology, 5pm; Ireland v Wales, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm.

IRELAND: N Reid (St Michael’s College), C O’Hanlon (St Munchin’s College), M Allen (Methodist College Belfast), D McCarthy (Castletroy Community College), M Atkinson (Grosvenor Grammar School), L Marshall (Ballymena Academy), D O’Driscoll (Presentation Brothers College Cork), D Buckley (Blackrock College), N Annett (Methodist College Belfast), J O’Connell (Clongowes Wood College), B Hayes (Christian Brothers College Cork), B Marshall (St. Andrew’s College), D Ryan (Gonzaga College), B O’Hara (Presentation Brothers College Cork), D O’Callaghan (Midleton College).

Replacements: R Byrne (Terenure College) B Cagney (Presentation Brothers College Cork) M Moore (Castleknock College) P Butler (Rockwell College) M Kelleher (St. Munchin’s College) R Bent (St Mary’s College) D McSharry (Templeogue College) P Pritchard (Ballymena Academy) G Nugent (Presentation Brothers College Cork) J Bloomfield (Coleraine Academical Institution) J McKinney (Campbell College)

WALES: J Loxton (Blues), A Hughes (Dragons), B John (Ospreys), A Beck (Ospreys), I Coombes (Dragons), M Jarvis (Ospreys), R Downes (Blues) D Watchurst (Dragons), R Williams (Blues) (captain), S Maguire (Dragons), T Crandon (Dragons), J Galley (Scarlets), D Francis (Dragons), R Jenkins (Dragons), J Thomas (Dragons)

Replacements: L Powell, C Lewis Pratt (Exiles), M Allan, D Francis, (all Dragons), G Jenkins, C Davies, L Peers (Ospreys) J King, G Davies, J Davies (all Scarlets).

See digest for other teams.

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