The Ireland Under-20 team to face France in the 5th-8th place play-off at the IRB Junior World Championship has been named.
Mike Ruddock has ringed in five changes for the clash, with five adjustments to the side that valiantly fought against the All Blacks in a 31-26 deficit during the final Irish game of the tournament pool stages.
The Northampton Saints’ Academy player and Irish exile Alex Wootton, who replaced the impressive Thomas Daly on tour, makes his first start of the Championship on the wing. Ulster’s star man Rory Scholes moves to full—back with ex-Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam completing the back three.
In the pack, the contest for shirts in the front-row has resulted in Bryan Byrne replacing George McGuigan at hooker, as Sean McCarthy steps in for Gavin Thornbury in the second-row to link with Ulster’s John Donnan.
Ryan Murphy is introduced at eight as Malone’s Conor Joyce reverts back to his usual position of blind-side flanker.
Ireland U20’s: Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Darren Sweetnam (UCC/Munster); Thomas Farrell (Lansdowne/Leinster), Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Alex Wootton (Northampton Saints/Exile), Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) (capt); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Bryan Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Christopher Taylor (Malone/Ulster), Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster), John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster).
Replacements: George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons/Exile), Edward Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Adam Boland (Lansdowne/Connacht), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster), David Shanahan (Clontarf/Leinster), Mark Roche (Lansdowne/Connacht), David Panter (Corinthians/Connacht).
Following their Championship final pool defeat to South Africa, the tournament hosts France will be searching for a scalp over the Irish. However, given Ireland’s form across all three pool games in this tournament, I would expect Mike Ruddock’s charges to cement the victory, especially after taking it to the wire with the Baby Blacks.
It will, as always, depend on which French team shows up on the day. The changes introduced are strong and will certainly give their all in each of their shirts given that the competition for starting placers in Ruddock’s match day squad is fierce.