Updates from the Irish camp

Date published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CONSIDERABLE Roughyeds interest concerns the Ireland squad for the upcoming Alitalia European Cup, which starts on Saturday with the clash of France and Ireland in the beautiful and ancient Rhone River town of Avignon, that of ‘sur le pont d’Avignon’ and the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) fame.

Tony Benson is there as Irish coach Andy Kelly’s No 2 and the squad also includes Wayne Kerr, John Gillam, Matty Ashe and Gregg McNally.

Marcus St Hilaire, also selected, did not make the trip because of his annual family holiday, but he will link up with the Irish next week as they prepare for their next game against Wales in Neath on October 17.

Tony B today gave Roughyeds’ fans this update from the squad’s base on the outskirts of Avignon.

He said: “We met up at Manchester Airport on Tuesday morning and we didn’t arrive at our hotel just outside Avignon, near the main highway past the town, until 7.30pm French time.

“We had a team meeting later in the evening and then we were up early this morning (Wed) for a good session in the gym. We haven’t seen anything of the town of Avignon yet, but I am sure we will get the opportunity to do that before very long.

“We have settled well into our headquarters and it will be good to spend a few days together in camp before we take on the French on Saturday.”

Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France contest this year’s competition with an added incentive for the winners given that they will be awarded a place in the 2011 Four Nations tournament here in the UK.

France, seven times European champions, have the advantage of playing all their three games on home soil and they may well feature several players already familiar to Championship fans such as Toulouse’s Vincent Duport and Matthieu Griffi.

They will still face a tough test from defending champions Wales, who claimed their fifth title last year and have a strong squad featuring a number of players from Celtic Crusaders and South Wales Scorpions.

Wales beat Scotland in last year’s final, while Ireland will be hoping for better things this year after a disappointing series in 2009.

The profile of the European Cup continues to grow with the acquisition of Italy’s national airline as title sponsors. French networks Direct 8 and Orange TV will broadcast all three French games live while over here Sky Sports will broadcast highlights of the tournament.

Fixtures are as follows:

France v Ireland, Avignon, October 9
Scotland v Wales, Glasgow, October 10
France v Scotland, Toulouse, October 16
Wales v Ireland, Neath, October 17
France v Wales, Albi, October 23
Ireland v Scotland, Dublin, October 24.