John_s_version_1The teams have been announced for Ireland’s opening match of the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship against Wales which takes place at the Manchester City Academy Stadium tomorrow afternoon. Kick off 17:30 UK/Ire live on Sky Sports TG4 and S4C. 

The teams last met in the RBS Six Nations in February at Donnybrook with the Welsh winning that entertaining encounter 35 – 24. 

Changes since the Last Meeting

There are three changes to the Welsh starting XV and eight changes to Ireland starting line-up  from the last time these two teams met, the most significant being the downgrading of Ulster’s Johnny McPhillips from the starting XV to the bench. 

I don’t know much about McPhillips’ replacement, Bill Johnstone, as he was injured throughout the Six Nations, but, by all accounts, he’s a quality player. He did play for Munster against Ulster U20’s at Queen’s Arena in 2015 but didn’t stand out in that encounter!

Ireland’s other changes are primarily due to injury with Conor Kenny stepping up from the bench to start at tight-head, alongside regulars Adam McBurney and Andrew Porter, and Cillian Gallagher moves from the back row to the second row, alongside captain James Ryan. Greg Jones and David Aspil form the back row with regular Max Deenan, Aspil making his first appearance at this level. 

The impressive Stephen Kerins starts at scrum-half having shown the best form over the Six Nations with Hugo Keenan, Shane Daly and Matthew Byrne maintain their staring positions. Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale takes over the full-back berth in an attempt to get the powerful and pacey runner more involved and Conor O’Bryne joins Daly in midfield having battled his way into the partnership for the last two games of the Six Nations. 

In the replacements Vincent O’Brien and Vakh Abdaladze form the front row replacements alongside Ben Betts and Sean O’Connor and Kelvin Brown cover second row and back row respectively as they did for much of the Six Nations.

Jimmy O’Brien joins McPhillips as backs replacement giving Ireland a couple of players who can mix things up if required and they are joined by Niall Saunders who made an impression when he came off the bench against Italy. 

The Teams In Full

WALES U20   IRELAND U20
COREY DOMACHOWSKI 1 ANDREW PORTER
DAFYDD HUGHES 2 ADAM MCBURNEY
DILLON LEWIS 3 CONOR KENNY
SHANE LEWIS-HUGHES 4 CILLIAN GALLAGHER
ADAM BEARD 5 JAMES RYAN
TOM PHILLIPS 6 GREG JONES
SHAUN EVANS 7 DAVID ASPIL
HARRISON KEDDIE 8 MAX DEEGAN
REUBEN MORGAN-WILLIAMS 9 STEPHEN KERINS
DAN JONES 10 BILL JOHNSTON
KEELAN GILES 11 HUGO KEENAN
HARRI MILLARD 12 CONOR O’BRIEN
JOE THOMAS 13 SHANE DALY
KIERAN WILLIAMS 14 MATTHEW BYRNE
RHUAN WILLIAMS 15 JACOB STOCKDALE
     
LIAM BELCHER 16 VINCENT O’BRIEN
RHYS FAWCETT 17 VAKH ABDALADZE
LEON BROWN 18 BEN BETTS
SEBASTIAN DAVIES 19 SEAN O’CONNOR
JOSHUA MACLEOD 20 KELVIN BROWN
DECLAN SMITH 21 NIALL SAUNDERS
JARROD EVANS 22 JOHNNY MCPHILLIPS
BILLY MCBRYDE 23 JIMMY O’BRIEN

 How Ireland will win

Wales completed a convincing Grand Slam in the Six Nations but it all could have ended before it began if Ireland hadn’t gifted them upwards of fifteen points in their meeting at Donnybrook. 

Their impressive pack and defensive line speed forced Ireland to cough up the points but if our lads can show just a touch more composure under pressure and if they can keep the big Welsh pack moving around the pitch they should have more than enough fire power in the back line to win this one, and it could conceivably be convincingly so. 

The FRU Predicts: I suspect it’ll take both sides a while to settle in this one but I expect the Welsh to enjoy the better of the the opening exchanges.  However, Ireland should finish the stronger and just edge past their opponents in the closing minutes. 

Players to Watch

Ireland’s James Ryan and Wales’ Harrison Keddie both impressed in the forward trenches last time out, whoever comes out on top in this skirmish should be on the winning team.  

#SUFTUM