Feidlim widens his Exiles net

England may be the best side in the world on current form but Ireland are probably the most improved side - at least in Europe.

England may be the best side in the world on current form but Ireland are probably the most improved side - at least in Europe.

They've given England a real run for their money at international level in recent seasons and the success of the Irish sides in the European Cup has been undeniable.

Much of that is down to the way the Irish Rugby Union cast their net far and wide for players and that looks set to continue with North-East based Feidlim MacLoughlin, the former Northern and Ireland prop, being elected a full member of the IRFU committee.

It's the first time an English-based man has been accorded the honour and MacLoughlin has worked tirelessly for the Irish Exiles. He has been president of the Exiles for the past seven years as well as more recently treasurer and acting chief executive.

"I do it to try to put something back into the game that I love and which has been very good to me, as well as to help young players get the right start on the representative ladder," he said.

Living in Riding Mill and a North-East resident for 40 years, MacLoughlin likes nothing better than to be able to help Falcons players gain Irish recognition - his brother Ray was a Gosforth skipper when he captained Ireland back in the mid-1960s, while Feidlim played for Northern, with Northumberland, North-East Counties, the Barbarians and Ireland.

He promoted Newcastle prop Ross Nesdale's Irish cause and the Kiwi-born hooker did sterling work for the men in green. The pair had plenty to talk about after meeting up when Nesdale returned to Lansdowne Road last autumn as lineout advisor to the All Blacks.

More recently, MacLoughlin he has been delighted to see Durham University scrum half Peter Phelan become a member of the Irish Under 18 squad - Phelan will join the Falcons Academy next season.

It's not just Newcastle players who have ended up in Ireland's colours thanks to MacLoughlin. Simon and Guy Easterby, Geordan Murphy and Kevin Maggs are among those who have been picked up by the Exiles' widening net.

Rugby Union may be professional at the top level but it still requires massive commitment from amateur committee men such as MacLoughlin to ensure the game continues to flourish.

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