Ireland U20’s have just completed one of their more successful seasons in recent years. The season highlight was their Six Nations Grand Slam, however, this was tempered by an 8th place finish in the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship.
Over the season they played 10 games, winning seven. They scored 287 points and conceded 247 which included 36 tries for and 32 against. Their largest win was a 38 – 14 win against Italy in the World Championship, their largest defeat was a 45 – 17 loss to Australia in the same competition.
Ireland U20 used 40 players throughout the season, the breakdown by province as follows – Leinster 18 (45%) , Munster 12 (30%) , Ulster 6 (15%), Connacht 3 (8%), and IQ Rugby 1 (2%).
Twenty of the 40 players accounted for just over 80% of the total time on the pitch and 12 accounted for less than 5% of the total time on the pitch with the squad showing a large difference in game time between a core of preferred players and the others in the squad.
Looking at the time played by the player’s from each province the breakdown is as follows:
Shannon’s Jake Flannery and University College Dublin’s Charlie Ryan weren’t that far behind, missing less than five minutes per game across the ten matches.
Of course, The Front Row Union has to give a special mention for Dublin University’s Tom Clarkson, the prop averaging 70 minutes a game across his ten matches in the front row.
|Liam Turner||Dublin University||Leinster||10||800||80|
|Tom Clarkson||Dublin University||Leinster||10||703||70|
|Jonathan Wren||Cork Constitution||Munster||10||686||69|
|Josh Wycherley||Young Munster||Munster||10||604||60|
|Angus Kernohan||Queen’s University||Ulster||8||544||68|
|Ryan Baird||Dublin University||Leinster||7||381||54|
|Martin Moloney||Old Belvedere||Leinster||5||380||76|
|Cormac Foley||St Mary’s College||Leinster||8||326||41|
|Rob Russell||Dublin University||Leinster||8||267||33|
|Ronan Watters||St Mary’s College||Leinster||5||241||48|
|Sean French||Cork Constitution||Munster||4||223||56|
|Conor Philips||Young Munster||Munster||2||144||72|
|John McKee||Old Belvedere||Leinster||7||134||19|
|Ciaran Booth||Sale Sharks||IQ Rugby||3||80||27|
|Max O’Reilly||Dublin University||Leinster||2||72||36|
|Billy Scannell||Young Munster||Munster||1||16||16|
In terms of time on the pitch it’s been a disappointing season for the Ulster representation at this level. In fact, in terms of playing time, it’s the worst % minutes played over the last four seasons as you can see below.
|No. of players||6 (15%)||11 (25%)||7 (16%)||4 (11%)|
|Minutes played.||1183 (10%)||3120 (26%)||1258 (11%)||905 (15%)**|
Note: **minutes played from World Championship only.
Queen’s University’s Angus Kernohan is the only Ulster player to get regular game time. In fairness, all the Ulster lads were injured at some time during the season but it’s still a continuing issue for Ulster Rugby, who’s representation at all levels is well below their status as the second biggest province in term of population and playing numbers.
The individual stats from the Ulster players this season are shown below.
Who scored the points?
Ireland’s 287 points came from 36 tries, 31 conversions and 15 penalties.
It was an excellent season for kicking averages with kickers Ben Healy (Garryowen), Harry Byrne (Lansdowne) and Jake Flannery (Shannon) averaging an impressive conversion rate of 86% over the 10 games.
Despite being used primarily as a strategic replacement, it was Healy that came out on top. The young outhalf enjoyed a 100% conversion rate during the World Championship which helped push his individual total to an impressive 63 points.
All the Ireland U20 scorers, across both competitions, are shown below.
|Jonathan Wren||Cork Constitution||Munster||10||3||0||0||15|
|Josh Wycherley||Young Munster||Munster||10||3||0||0||15|
|Cormac Foley||St Mary’s College||Leinster||8||2||0||0||10|
|Ryan Baird||Dublin University||Leinster||7||2||0||0||10|
|Tom Clarkson||Dublin University||Leinster||10||1||0||0||5|
|Rob Russell||Dublin University||Leinster||8||1||0||0||5|
The point distribution by player province is shown below, Munster coming out well on top by virtue of the kicking performances of Healy (Garryowen) and Flannery (Shannon).
It’s therefore no surprise that, “Mr Abrasive” himself, Corinthians hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin came out on top of the try scoring league with six tries over the ten games.
After scoring five tries in the Six Nations his cards were marked in the World Championship, but he did draw the attention of the defenders allowing other Irish players to cross the line.
|Jonathan Wren||Cork Constitution||Munster||10||686||3|
|Josh Wycherley||Young Munster||Munster||10||604||3|
|Ryan Baird||Dublin University||Leinster||7||381||2|
|Cormac Foley||St Mary’s College||Leinster||8||326||2|
In terms of provincial performance, it’s the Munster men, once again, leading the way with 13 tries.
However, it should be noted that it’s Connacht and Ulster that are clocking in with scoring percentages higher than their minutes played percentages.
The stats for the Ulster players are shown below – just click to expand.
Despite limited game time, four of Ulster’s six players managed to cross the line for Ireland U20’s throughout the season. Banbridge’s David McCann and Malone’s Stewart Moore both made an impact in the U20’s World Championship, scoring two tries each. Moore, in particular, shot to instant stardom, both his tries extraordinary in their own way. The first showing quick thinking and the second showing great footwork!
All in all, it has been a pretty good season for this group of youngsters.
It was important that after two average season’s in the Six Nations coupled with two abysmal World Championship campaigns that Ireland U20’s made a mark and the Six Nations was the sort of competition where they could maintain a challenge.
They did this magnificently, to complete a Grand Slam, but in doing so they also lessened their chances of a top four finish in the World Championships.
We said at the time.
However, success in the U20 Championship is far from a given for two reasons.
- It’s a brutal tournament and Ireland blooded very few players outside of the starting XV – any injuries and they may struggle for experience in the knockout stages.
- They will need to find a few more tricks outside of their forwards based abrasive game. It won’t be sustainable with matches every 4-5 days.
and that’s pretty much how it turned out.
The most pleasing thing about this group was they had a fairly simple game plan but they worked very, very hard to implement it.
Their attitude was exemplary and if they can carry that forward to next season and add a Plan B and Plan C to their back line, maybe with an out an out flier and a risk taking out half, they may be able to challenge on two fronts. Looking forward to it already. 😀
The Front Row Union Ireland U20 Player of the Year.
In such a hard working, closely knit squad there were plenty of contenders for our selection for Player of the Year.
It’s particularly difficult this season as we would have normally covered five or six or their matches live which would have given us 4,000 – 6,000 photos to sort through which really lets you see who is doing what in the background. Unfortunately we didn’t get to any games this season.
Obviously, the three players named above, Liam Turner, Ben Healy and Dylan Tierney-Martin were all well in the hunt as were, UCD players, Charlie Ryan, who was magnificent as captain, and John Hodnett who impressed in the back row. Ulster’s Angus Kernohan also impressed with his composure throughout and I would have loved to have seen more of David McCann and Stewart Moore.
However, there was one player who began to catch my attention more and more as the World Championship progressed and it’s somewhat fitting that The Front Row Union’s Ireland U20’s Player of the Year goes to a front row player that was consistently the cornerstone of their potent scrum, none other than Dublin University’s Tom Clarkson.
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