Irish call on Ashe

Date published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MATTY Ashe, the Oldham RL half-back, flew to France with the Ireland squad today after a late call-up which took him completely by surprise.

He was getting ready to finish his Monday shift at a firm in Leigh which makes wood pallets when Roughyeds coach Tony Benson rang him with the good news.

“Pack your bags,” said Tony. “You’re off to France . . . tomorrow morning.”

Matty had first to get the approval of his day-job boss, but once he had done that it was all systems go for the 25-year-old New Zealander, who has an Irish passport and whose paternal grandparents were born in Dublin.

In fact, he is no stranger to Irish rugby, having played at club level in Ireland and having been selected in the past for Irish Wolfhounds, a representative side made up of players from the Irish domestic competition.

Matty Ashe

By a strange twist of fate he once toured his native New Zealand with a Wolfhounds touring party, headed by Tony Benson and including his present-day Roughyeds colleague Wayne Kerr.

This is the first time, however, that Ashe will have been involved with the full Ireland side which plays its opening game in the Alitalia European Cup against France in Avignon on Saturday.

“It’s a rush to get everything sorted out in time, but I’m made up to be given this opportunity,” said Ashe, who can operate in either of the two half-back positions as well as hooker and loose-forward.

He added: “I got the call from Tony at 5pm and I’ve to be at Manchester Airport tomorrow (Tues) morning. It’a a hectic schedule, but if I get the nod to play in Avignon it will be fabulous to take on the French at that level.”

Benson, who was also on the plane in his capacity as head coach Andy Kelly’s assistant, said some players had pulled out of the trip because of injury.

“Matty was always in the background,” added Tony, “and I know he’s pretty happy to get the call. He’s deserved his chance with the full Irish squad and in a competition like this his versatility will come in very handy.”

Ashe is the fourth Roughyeds player to be picked for the Ireland squad, joining prop Kerr, winger John Gillam and centre Marcus St Hilaire. Scrum-half Gregg McNally, who spent much of last season on loan to Rougheyds from Huddersfield Giants, is also in the party to travel.