There are three Ulster players in the 28 man squad; Adam McBurney and Jacob Stockdale, who will take part in their second tournament, are joined by out-half Johnny McPhillips who’ll be making his tournament début.
I’ll start this section with the proviso that form at this level, and in this attritional tournament in particular, is notoriously hard to gauge and can fluctuate wildly from game to game, or half to half for that matter. 🙂
However, it would be fair to say that Ireland U20’s go into this tournament with a bit of form behind them having won the last three games of their Six Nations campaign after a disappointing start. Throughout that competition coach Nigel Carolan did encourage his charges to play attacking rugby and despite initial setbacks against Wales and France they did finish off with some style.
They are in a tough enough group with Six Nations Champions Wales, current World Rugby Champions New Zealand and the always abrasive Georgia, who won the 2015 World Rugby U20 Trophy. None of the games will be a walkover and the success or otherwise in this cut-throat tournament will more than likely be decided in their opening game against the Welsh.
Though there are only three Ulster players in the squad they do have the chance to make a big impact.
Adam McBurney, who only made the squad last year by virtue of an injury to Zac McCall, was Ireland’s youngest player last time out. He consolidated his starting spot during this years Six Nations and pushed the Ireland U20 Captain James Ryan all the way for Irish player of the series.
An abrasive, ball carrying hooker the former Belfast Metropolitan Academy graduate and current Ballymena player adds a hard edge up front and has matured into a leader on the pitch by virtue of his attitude and impressive work-rate.
In contrast to McBurney’s solidity I must say that Johnny McPhillips both delighted and frustrated me in equal measure during this season’s Six Nations as he transitioned from a school’s full back to an International out-half in his first season with Ireland U20’s having joined the Ulster Academy last summer, switching from the Newcastle Falcons set up.
The Queen’s University player mixed some great plays with some dubious decisions during the Six Nations but I must say I’m really looking forward to watching him play again at this level. Huge potential.
While his progress has been steady it’s perhaps not been as spectacular as his 6′ 3″, 101 kg frame would warrant. To me though this has largely been due to circumstances, being in limbo between the U20’s and Ulster Seniors for most of the season and only released for the final two games of the Six Nations where he struggled to make an impact despite scoring against Scotland.
However, now fully ensconced in the Irish U20’s squad, I expect this powerful strike runner to be one of the players of the tournament and I’m looking forward to see how he and McPhillips play off each other.
Ireland’s fixtures in Pool A will all take place at the Manchester City Academy Stadium as follows;
|Tuesday, 7th June||17:30||Wales||v||Ireland|
|Saturday, 11th June||13:30||New Zealand||v||Ireland|
|Wednesday, 15th June||17:30||Ireland||v||Georgia|
The Semi-Finals take place on Monday 20th June with Finals day on Saturday 25th, the locations and opponents depending on the teams ranking after the Pool stages.
Ireland Squad in full
As seems to be the current vogue it’s yet another Leinster rich squad with thirteen players coming from HQ. Munster contribute eight players and Ulster and Connacht chip in with three each. Exiles’ Niall Sanders, son of Rob, makes up the 28 man squad.
Stephen Kerins (Sligo/Connacht)
Niall Saunders (Epsom College/Exiles)
Bill Johnston (Garryowen/Munster) *
Johnny McPhillips (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Conor O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster)
Shane Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Jimmy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
Paul Kiernan (UCC/Munster)
Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Matthew Byrne (Terenure College/Leinster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Bollard (Dublin UniversityLeinster)
Vakh Abdaladze (Clontarf/Leinster) *
Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster)
Vincent O’Brien (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
Conor Kenny (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Benn Betts (Young Munster/Munster)
Cillian Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht)
James Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster) (capt)
Sean O’Connor (Cashel/Munster)
Evan Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
Greg Jones (UCD/Leinster)
Will Connors (UCD/Leinster)
Max Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Kelvin Brown (Shannon/Munster)
David Aspil St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster) *
* Denotes uncapped player at Under-20 level
Not considered due to injury:
Conan O’Donnell (Sligo/Connacht)
Shane Fenton (Young Munster/Munster)
Peter Claffey (Galwegians/Connacht)
Sam Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Jack Power (UCD/Leinster)