The teams have been announced for the Ireland v France U20 Six Nations fixture which takes place on Friday night at Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin. Kick off 8:00pm. 

Johnny McPhillips drops out due to injury (groin) but Rob Lyttle makes his first appearance after injury and starts at full-back. Lyttle is joined in the starting line up by the impressive Jonny Steward at scrum-half with Marcus Rea making his first start, replacing the injured Cillian Gallagher, at blindside. Peter Cooper starts on the bench after missing the match against Italy due to injury. 

Normally you would say that the absence of McPhillips would be a huge loss but Ireland are fortunate that they can call on Munster’s Bill Johnston to step up. McPhillips and Johnston will, no doubt, be scrapping it out for the Ireland 10 spot in the years to come and the Munster youngster now has his chance to shine. 

Ireland have struggled this series against the historically weaker opposition of Scotland and Italy. However, they have recorded two away wins and sit in second place behind an impressive English side. This match against France will be their first real test and they will need to improve substantially, in all areas, if they are to come away with a win. 

The forwards had a torrid time against Italy last time out. I, for one, will be interested to see what difference Peter Cooper makes in the front row when he gets on as I think they missed him against the Italians.  Historically though, Ireland do struggle at this level up front, particularly against England and the French, and often rely on their backs to get them out of trouble. 

Unfortunately, the backs have been disappointing this season. The inclusion of Rob Lyttle should help and, with a bit of luck, Calvin Nash will show some of the form he’s shown prior to this tournament. He was a big disappointment against Italy.  

France have made six changes to the team that won convincingly against Scotland. Most noticeably they have swapped out their whole back row. The French are all big boys and Ireland’s loss of Gallagher and the withdrawal of Fineen Wycherley, who’s selected for the Munster senior squad, will literally leave Ireland light but, it’s a chance for Ulster’s Rea and Leinster’s Jack Regan to step up. 

The FRU Predicts: I don’t think the home pitch and the big crowd will be enough for Ireland against a muscular French side and I think it’s a game too early for Lyttle and Johnston. France to win, with a degree of comfort. 

IRELAND U20   FRANCE U20
Rob Lyttle 15 Romain Buros
Jordan Larmour 14 Faraj Fartass
Tommy O’Brien 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi
Ciaran Frawley 12 Theo Dachary
Calvin Nash 11 William Iraguha
Bill Johnston 10 Romain N’Tamack
Jonny Stewart 9 Arthur Retiere
Joey Conway 1 Kevin Tougne
Tadgh McElroy 2 Etienne Fourcade
Charlie Connolly 3 Thomas Laclayat
Jack Regan 4 Florian Verhaeghe
Oisin Dowling 5 Mickael Capelli
Marcus Rea 6 Dylan Cretin
Paul Boyle 7 Julien Ruaud
Caelan Doris 8 Alexandre Roumat
     
Ronan Kelleher 16 Leo Aouf
Rory Mulvihill 17 Florian Dufour
Peter Cooper 18 Georges-Henri Colombe
Gavin Coombes 19 Killian Geraci
Sean Masterson 20 Cameron Woki
Jack Lyons 21 Baptiste Couilloud
Conor Fitzgerald 22 Anthony Fuertes
Alex McHenry 23 Theo Millet

#SUFTUM