Wednesday 31st May 2006
SAN FRANCISCO BAY pool - Their eyes may have been a bit tired with jetlag yesterday but they were still definitely smiling as the Irish A team took to their practice field for the first time in San Francisco yesterday. The team, who are participating in the Barclays Churchill Cup rugby tournament for the first time, arrived into the San Francisco Bay area on Monday evening, ahead of their first match on Saturday. The young squad will take on the hosts - USA Eagles - at Santa Clara University on Saturday afternoon (3rd June).
Speaking at yesterday's training, the Ireland A team manager Joe Mills said the team were excited about the tournament. "It was a long journey from Dublin via England and it was good to arrive. Everyone is fit and well at the long of a long season, which is good news. All the players are very excited to be here. It is all very new to the players and the Barclays Churchill Cup is presenting them with a new challenge. It is another way for particularly the youngsters to express themselves and press for senior team selection next season."
Ireland A have not played the US Eagles before so the Irish team have been doing their homework and studying tapes of the US past performances. Joe continued, "We know it has been a little while since they have played a competitive test but we have been studying the tapes at length. No doubt they are doing the same with us."
Joe admitted that the Irish squad is young and largely inexperienced, "We have quite a few uncapped players out here, but that makes it exciting as the squad has a lot to prove and a lot of them are looking to make a statement by performing well out here. There is a very competitive atmosphere within the squad already and now we have arrived the players are keen to get on with the rugby."
The team are hoping that despite facing the host nation, there will be some neutral supporters in the crowd on Saturday who may help cheer on the Irish. Joe said, "Irish rugby has enjoyed a fantastic season both internationally and also with the provincial side Munster winning the Heineken Cup, which is the leading club tournament in Europe. Irish rugby is enjoying a high profile around the world right now and we are hoping the Americans will be aware of that and perhaps a few of them may even cheer for us on Saturday!"
All Barclays Churchill Cup matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.