Four Connacht players have the made Wolfhounds starting XV that take on England Saxons this Saturday in Exeter.
Connacht captain Gavin Duffy, John Muldoon, Mike McCarthy and Brett Wilkinson all make the starting XV while versatile prop Ronan Loughney will look to impact from the bench.
The call-ups are just reward for the players recent fine form and although Connacht had to wait until their final pool game in the Heineken Cup to earn their first victory, there have been some exceptional individual performances along the way.
The side shows a balance between youth and experience, with nine of the match day 22 uncapped at senior level.
Gavin Duffy is the man with that experience in the back three, with David Kearney and Simon Zebo start on the wings. Nevin Spence and Eoin O’Malley will form a new centre partnership at this level outside a half-back partnership of former Connacht player Ian Keatley and Isaac Boss.
In the forwards, Damien Varley starts at hooker and beside him experienced Connacht loose head prop Brett Wilkinson packs down with Stephen Archer, who has recently broken into the Munster match squad and been part of his provinces Heineken Cup run.
Dan Tuohy wins his third cap at this level and partners Mike McCarthy in the second row. John Muldoon, the most experienced player in the squad at this level with 10 Wolfhounds caps,forms a back row partnership that includes Captain Chris Henry at openside and Rhys Ruddock, winning his first cap for the Wolfhounds, starting at No.8.
O2 Ireland Wolfhounds Coach Eric Elwood is looking forward to the game and the challenge of playing a Saxons team that is packed full of premiership and European experience.
“The games against the Saxons are always highly competitive affairs as you would expect and results have tended to go with the home side, but I think we have a good mix in our side and the key message is that we have to match them on all fronts, especially in the physical stakes, to come away with a win.
“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.
“We have a touch more experience in our pack, which I think will be important for this game and good spine through it with Dan (Tuohy) and Mike (McCarthy) giving us some really good ability across the set piece and in the carrying stakes to compliment a back row that I think can make a good impression.
“I would expect a really good atmosphere for the game and I know the players are looking forward to it.”
The match can be seen live on Sky Sports.
O2 Ireland Wolfhounds Team & Replacements ( v England Saxons,Sandy Park, Exeter, Saturday, 28th January 2012, K.O. 5.00pm):
15 – Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht)
14 – David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster) *
13 – Eoin O’Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
12 – Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster) *
11 – Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster)*
10 – Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster)
9 – Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster)
1 – Brett Wilkinson (Galwegians/Connacht)*
2 – Damien Varley (Garryowen/Munster)
3 – Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
4 – Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster)
5 – Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht)
6 – John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht)
7 – Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster) Captain
8 – Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
16 – Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster)*
17 – Ronan Loughney (Galwegians/Connacht)*
18 – Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
19 – Kevin McLaughlin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
20 – Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster)
21 – Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)*
22 – Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
*Denotes Uncapped at full international level