Armagh set for ‘Royal’ rumble

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Armagh set for ‘Royal’ rumble thumbnailALL AS ONE... Coaches Chris Parker and Willie Faloon issue some pre-match instructions prior to the Royal 1st XV game with Sullivan Upper on New Year's Eve.

ROYAL School Armagh will make the short 13 mile trip up the A29 to face their first fixture in the Danske Bank Schools' Cup against fierce rivals Royal School Dungannon this Saturday morning at 10.30am.

1st XV captain James Dunne admitted that while they would have preferred a home draw, it is a game that is likely to capture the imagination of the local rugby community and both schools.

“It is a tie that will generate a fair bit of interest and for us it is a local game and we don't have to travel too far on the morning of the game.

“We played Dungannon earlier on in the season and won 29-10, but neither side will really read too much into the game.

“Both teams will have improved and learnt a lot since then.

“On the day we will play to our strengths and as long as our pack fronts up then we know that our backs will score tries.

“They have done it all season and if we give them the platform to do that again on Saturday then I have no doubt they will continue to do it.

“Saturday is going to be completely different to our normal games. There should be a good atmosphere at it and a big crowd and it should make for a great occasion."

The Royal have been working hard over the Festive period and Dunne added that they are in a good place ahead of Saturday's tie.

“We had two sessions a week over Christmas and a match on New Year's Eve.

“As well as that all of the boys went away and did their own work away from school.

“We have our sessions on the pitch and two gym sessions in the morning before school and we are doing whatever we can to get an advantage."

Assistant coach Chris Parker said that as far as away draws go, it couldn't have gone any better.

“Ideally you are looking for a home draw, but it doesn't uproot our schedule and timings too much.

“We are only going up the road and it should mean that we will have a big crowd coming up to give us some vocal support."

Parker, who coaches the back-line, said that the panel have been ticking over and building momentum over the Festive period.

“It is nice to try and build momentum as the season goes on but we are very much aware that once we get to the cup it is results based.

“We are hopeful that if we produce a good performance then we will produce a result, but we know that we just need to get the win and get over the line."

Parker admitted that there will be a lot of pressure on the young shoulders of the players taking to the field for both sides.

“Pressure will definitely come into it and which side can deal better with the expectation, especially with it being a big local derby.

“We have a lot of boys in our 23 man squad that played last year and have that experience and know what the Schools' Cup is all about.

“Last year we played Dungannon in the one of the subsidiary competitions and we are confident that we will be able to deal with the pressure well on the day."

Armagh's exited the competition last year after just two games and Parker said that their good form this year has allowed them to enter the competition one round later this time around.

“Last year we were straight in after Christmas and we didn't have much time to prepare.

“This year we have had a game on New Year's Eve, a game down in Dublin and then Coleraine last Saturday, so we have had a good run of games and it will help to build some more momentum and it got the boys together and allowed them to focus a bit better after the holidays.

“We would definitely have preferred to have gone in a round later with the big Belfast sides, but we are where we are and we have had two really good weeks to prepare thoroughly for the game."

Royal School Armagh have been fortunate to call upon the vast experience of former Ulster and Connacht flanker Willie Faloon this season.

The former Irish Wolfhounds forward has taken on the Director of Rugby role and the Head Coach of the 1st XV this season and Faloon admitted he has thoroughly enjoyed his time working with the players.

“I came on board in September and started working with Chris and the 1st XV and the boys have been absolutely brilliant.

“Their commitment has been fantastic and they always have smiles on their faces, they are a great bunch to work with."

Faloon firmly believes that his side are in a good place ahead of Saturday's crunch encounter at Northland Road.

“No journey is ever straight forward and we had our ups and downs, but generally we have really improved across the board and I think we are in a good place ahead of Saturday.

“We won't look any further than the Dungannon game. You would be mad to sit down and plan for a last sixteen tie.

“We have sat down and watched the video back from the game at the start of the season and we know that they are a strong side.

“Their particular strengths are in their maul and they go round the corner well, they are big and physical like all Dungannon teams.

“We know it is a big test, but we have a job to do and we will be competitive!"

Faloon admitted that while they would have preferred to have had home advantage, he knows that Armagh will have a vociferous backing come Saturday.

“Home advantage in the Schools' Cup is massive, they will have a big support and we will need all of our players to be at 100%.

“Hopefully we will have a good vocal support on Saturday and that would be a huge boost to the players."


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