Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

McAleese hails Irish rugby stars

Captain Brian O'Driscoll waits to greet President Mary McAleese at Aras an Uachtarain during a reception for the Irish Rugby Football Union team

Ireland's rugby stars will do the country proud in the World Cup and serve as great ambassadors for the sport, President Mary McAleese has said.

Hosting a reception at Aras an Uachtarain ahead of the squad's departure, Ms McAleese said the players will acquit themselves with honour and distinction in New Zealand.

Mrs McAleese said the Irish Rugby Football Union deserved huge credit for what they had achieved over the past two decades.

"When I came into office in 1997, I said the theme of my presidency would be bridge-building - between people, between communities, between both parts of this island," Mrs McAleese said.

"Over the last 14 years, the IRFU and Irish rugby has done a huge amount of bridge-building of its own - building up the sport at grass roots level, building a provincial system with which people could feel a real sense of allegiance and community and building an Irish team that all traditions on this island are proud to call their own."

Coach Declan Kidney has revealed the 30 names who will be travelling to New Zealand for the tournament's kick-off on September 9.

Despite commentators suggesting the team could secure success for Ireland, there were a number of high-profile omissions including Tomas O'Leary and Luke Fitzgerald.

Ms McAleese said the squad was made up of players of extraordinary talent and commitment, with a management and coaching staff of outstanding ability and judgment.

"It only remains for me to extend to all the team - players, coaching staff, medical and physio team and officials - every best wish for the World Cup finals," Ms McAleese said.

"I know you will acquit yourselves with great honour and distinction, I know you will be great ambassadors for Irish rugby, I know you will make all of us proud, and I hope that all of your collective talent, commitment and preparation will be rewarded with the positive results they so manifestly deserve."

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