I must say I’m starting to enjoy our new relationship with the Ireland U20’s coaches. After being dumped at the altar by the wonderful Nigel Carolan about this time last year it has taken us a while to recover. Fair enough, we had the equally attack minded Kieran Campbell involved for our summer fling in Gerogia but with such a decimated squad it just wasn’t the same, the final game against hosts Georgia the only performance of note.
This Six Nations series we’ve been trying to suss out the playing philosophy of new coach Noel McNamara and so far he’s been ticking a lot of boxes in what should be a long and supportive relationship with the FRU. 😀
Now, so far, they have only won one match but they are the second highest try scorers behind the freakishly good French side. They are also in second place for tries conceded and, in fact, they have conceded two more than they have scored. However, they are the only team that really stood up to the French so far and their opening round 10 point defeat to Les Blues looks better and better as the tournament progresses. They can defend and they can defend well, as they showed against France, but their concentration does lapse at times and they gave away a host of soft scores to Italy and Wales.
At this stage of their development I don’t think it’s a big problem and it should improve immeasurably when they get a bit more squad time ahead of the 2018 World Rugby U20 World Championship but I don’t expect it to change that much for this game against Scotland for what should be another try fest extravaganza!
With the World Championship in mind McNamara has decided to have a look at his extended squad and, as we flagged at the start of the tournament, he has brought in a host of Ulster players who should be involved come June.
Into the starting back line come Ballymena’s Angus Kernohan, who has benched for the first three games, and Queen’s University’s Mark Keane who makes his first appearance this season after a couple of run outs in the championship in Georgia. They will start on the wings and are joined in the centre by Queen’s Angus Curtis.
Up front, the impressive Tom O’Toole gets his first start at tighthead and the Banbridge man will be joined by Malone stalwart Matthew Dalton who is realeased from the Ulster senior squad. Fellow Malone man Joe Dunleavey picks up his first cap and forms a back row partnership with Ballymena’s Matthew Agnew who had an impressive game against Wales last time out.
One of the players of the tournament so far, Queen’s University’s Jonny Stewart, gets a bit of a rest and will start from the bench and he’s joined by Banbridge’s James Hume who did well in his debut last time out.
Delighted to see Keane back in the mix as he impressed in his limited outings last season and Kernohan and O’Toole will be pleased to get some extended game time this time round.
As I said earlier, Ireland U20’s will need to improve their concentration and in particular their restart returns which have been poor to date. Scotland will be travelling with a fair degree of confidence after beating England last time out and they have made only two, injury forced, changes.
Expect another high scoring game with Ireland coming out on top this time round.
|Ireland U20||Scotland U20|
|Michael Silvester||15||Paddy Dewhirst|
|Angus Kernohan||14||Rory McMichael|
|Tommy O’Brien||13||Fraser Strachan|
|Angus Curtis||12||Stafford McDowall|
|Mark Keane||11||Kyle Rowe|
|Harry Byrne||10||Ross Thompson|
|Hugh O’Sullivan||9||Charlie Chapman|
|James French||1||Shaun Gunn|
|Ronan Kelleher||2||Robbie Smith|
|Tom O’Toole||3||Finlay Richardson|
|Matthew Dalton||4||Ewan Johnson|
|Jack Dunne||5||Jamie Hodgson|
|Joe Dunleavy*||6||Martin Hughes|
|Matthew Agnew||7||Rory Darge|
|Jack O’Sullivan||8||Devante Onojaife|
|Eoghan Clarke||16||Bradley Clements|
|Jordan Duggan||17||Nathan McBeth|
|Jack Aungier||18||Murphy Walker|
|Charlie Ryan||19||Marshall Sykes|
|Ronan Foley||20||Connor Boyle|
|Jonny Stewart||21||Kaleem Barreto|
|Conor Dean||22||Mark New|
|James Hume||23||Logan Trotter|