Ireland U20 Coach Noel McNamara named an extended squad of 32 players for the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship which takes place in Argentina next month from June 4 to 22. The squad will be reduced to 28 ahead of their departure for Argentina.
The squad features seven Ulster U20 players with Bruce Houston (Ballymena), Stewart Moore (Malone) and Azur Allison (Ballymena) joining Angus Kernohan (Queens), David McCann (Banbridge), Callum Reid (Banbridge) and Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch) who were all involved in the very successful U20 Six Nations campaign, though Hughes failed to pick up a cap.
McNamara named a total of 33 different players in his match day squads for the Six Nations. However, four of those players were unused throughout the tournament resulting in 29 players receiving caps.
He relied heavily on a strong core of players and only really made forced changes; giving a pronounced difference in game time between his chosen starters and the rest of the squad.
There are however four spots in his “preferred” team opened up with injuries to some key players, the following missing out.
|Conor Philips||Young Munster||Munster||144||0||0||0||0||0|
These are quite big losses to what was a tight unit over the Six Nations with Penny, Byrne and Hawkshaw all making big impacts.
It leaves a core of 25 players who were involved in the six Nations to some degree, these players are shown below.
|Jonathan Wren||Cork Constitution||Munster||400||2||0||0||0||10|
|Liam Turner||Dublin Uni||Leinster||400||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tom Clarkson||Dublin Uni||Leinster||389||1||0||0||0||5|
|Martin Moloney||Old Belvedere||Leinster||380||0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Wycherley||Young Munster||Munster||331||2||0||0||0||10|
|Angus Kernohan||Queen’s Uni||Ulster||233||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sean French||Cork Constitution||Munster||192||0||0||0||0||0|
|Cormac Foley||St Mary’s College||Leinster||154||1||0||0||0||5|
|Rob Russell||Dublin Uni||Leinster||65||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Baird||Dublin Uni||Leinster||59||0||0||0||0||0|
|John McKee||Old Belvedere||Leinster||55||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ronan Watters||St Mary’s College||Leinster||8||0||0||0||0||0|
Note, ten of the above players got limited game time, including Ulster’s Iwan Hughes who appeared in the squad for the final match against Wales but didn’t get on the pitch.
The above are joined by:
Bruce Houston (Ballymena)
Adam La Grue (Terenure College)
Stewart Moore (Malone)
Declan Adamson (Clontarf)
Thomas Ahern (Shannon)
Azur Allison (Ballymena)
Charlie Ward (Clontarf)
To complete the squad of 32 players.
Given the abrasive nature of the U20 World Championship it is likely that all 32 players will be used at some time over the five match tournament though only 28 will be named in the official squad. Bringing in replacements has been quite common over the last few years and I’d be surprised if all 32 didn’t fly out together.
However, my concern is the limited game time that McNamara handed out to players outside of his starters.
Now, McNamara did mastermind a wonderfully successful tournament with Ireland achieving their first ever U20 Grand Slam but the Championship is a much more difficult proposition with five abrasive games over 18 days.
After two disastrous Championships in Georgia and France where Ireland finished 9th and 11th respectively they really need to make an impact in this one.
Due to their Six Nations Grand Slam the team are being touted as top four material, and they may well be, but I think top six is a much more realistic possibility. If McNamara does achieve this it will have been a very successful season.
Ireland have been drawn in Pool B alongside England, who finished 2nd last time out, Australia (5th) and Italy (8th) and with Ireland being the lowest ranked team in the pool there won’t be any easy matches.
The match schedule for the pool games is as follows.
Ireland U20, World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures (Pool B)
Tuesday, June 4 – England v Ireland, Santa Fe, 7.30pm UK/IRE
Saturday. June 8 – Australia v Ireland, Santa Fe, 2.30pm UK/IRE
Wednesday, June 12 – Italy v Ireland, Santa Fe, 2.30pm UK/IRE