We have an indepth look at the two teams ahead of tonight’s opening 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship. Kicks off 19:30 UK/IRE. 

The match should be streamed live here for those of us in the UK and will also be shown on EIR Sports. 

Why is this match important? 

The U20 Championship is such a tight competition that you literally cannot afford to lose a match if you want to qualify for the Championship Semi Finals and both these sides will be gunning for a top four finish. 

England won the championship in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and were runners up in 2017 and 2018. They will have a disaster of a tournament if the do not qualify for the semi finals. 

Ireland’s best finish was runners up in 2016 where they lost to England in the final. However, since then they have finished 9th and 11th in the 12 team competition. They desperately need a good tournament. 

What happened last time they met?

The teams last met in the opening round of the 2019 Six Nations at Irish Independent Park, Cork in front of a crowd of 5,764. 

Ireland kicked off their Grand Slam season with a 37 – 25 win in a match that could have went either way. to me the game hinged on a piece of indiscipline from the English pack. As we wrote at the time:

England looked to their pack to dominate up front but they threw away a game winning chance with an early push in a scrum meters from the Ireland line. It was a huge let off for Ireland who had just lost replacement Michael Milne to a yellow card for collapsing the preceding scrums.

The hosts comfortably saw out the rest of the player deficit and as the clock ticked down towards full time they managed to find the bonus point try as replacement scrum half Cormac Foley sneaked over off the back of a scrum to seal the game. Byrne converted to deny England the losing bonus and give a final score of Ireland 35 England 27. Amazing!

Ireland went on to win their first ever Grand Slam at this level and a disgruntled England showed furter indiscipline in a loss to Wales to finish in 3rd place overall.  

Will that match have any effect on this one? 

Well yes and no.

Ireland will have the confidence of going into this competition on the back of a six match unbeaten run (including their last game in the 2018 World Championship). 

England, on the other hand, will be keen to make amends for their indiscipline during the Six Nations. 

Ireland have 10 players involved in that Six Nations match in thier starting lineup and England have 12. However, in the overall squad Ireland have 16 players involved from their last meeting and England have 13. 

Both the squads are shown below with players involved in the previous meeting highlighted in bold. 

1 Olly Adkins Gloucester Rugby 1 Josh Wycherley Young Munster
2 Nic Dolly Sale Sharks 2 Dylan Tierney-Martin Corinthians
3 Joe Heyes Leicester Tigers 3 Thomas Clarkson Dublin University
4 Joel Kpoku Saracens
4 Charlie Ryan (Capt.) UCD
5 Alex Coles Northampton  5 Ryan Baird Trinity College, Dublin
6 Ted Hill Worcester Warriors 6 David McCann Banbridge
7 Aaron Hinkley Gloucester Rugby 7 John Hodnett University College Cork
8 Tom Willis Wasps 8 Azur Allison Ballymena
9 Ollie Fox Bath Rugby 9 Craig Casey Shannon
10 Manu Vunipola Saracens 10 Jake Flannery Cork Constitution
11 Tom Seabrook Gloucester Rugby 11 Jonathan Wren Cork Constitution
12 Cameron Redpath Sale Sharks 12 Stewart Moore Malone
13 Fraser Dingwall (Capt.) Northampton  13 Liam Turner Dublin University
14 Ollie Sleightholme Northampton  14 Angus Kernohan QUB
15 Tom De Glanville Bath Rugby 15 Iwan Hughes Ballynahinch
16 Alfie Barbeary Wasps 16 Declan Adamson Clontarf
17 Kai Owen Worcester Warriors 17 Michael Milne UCD
18 Alfie Petch Exeter Chiefs 18 Charlie Ward Clontarf
19 Will Capon Bristol Bears 19 John McKee Old Belvedere
20 James Kenny Exeter Chiefs 20 Ronan Watters St Mary’s College
21 Richard Capstick Exeter Chiefs 21 Niall Murray Connacht
22 Rusiate Tuima Exeter Chiefs 22 Thomas Ahern Shannon
23 Josh Basham Newcastle Falcons 23 Ciaran Booth Sale Sharks
24 Sam Maunder Exeter Chiefs 24 Colm Reilly Buccaneers
25 Luke James Sale Sharks 25 Cormac Foley St Mary’s College
26 Connor Doherty Sale Sharks 26 Ben Healy Garryowen
27 Arron Reed Sale Sharks 27 Sean French Cork Constitution
28 Josh Hodge Newcastle Falcons 28 Rob Russell Dublin University


What are the Irish Players Stats?

All the stats for the Irish players at this level are shown below. In the case of Angus Kernohan and Charlie Ryan the stats include U20 Six Nations and Championship stats from 2018. 

Iwan Hughes* Ballynahinch Ulster 0 0 0 0
Angus Kernohan Queen’s University Ulster 8 422 0 0
Liam Turner Dublin University Leinster 5 400 0 0
Stewart Moore* Malone Ulster 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Wren Cork Constitution Munster 5 400 2 10
Jake Flannery Shannon Munster 5 377 0 2
Craig Casey Shannon Munster 3 216 2 10
Josh Wycherley Young Munster Munster 5 331 2 10
Dylan Tierney-Martin Corinthians Connacht 5 329 5 25
Tom Clarkson Dublin University Leinster 5 389 1 5
Charlie Ryan UCD Leinster 10 491 0 0
Ryan Baird Dublin University Leinster 2 59 0 0
David McCann Banbridge Ulster 3 27 0 0
John Hodnett UCD Munster 5 390 1 5
Azur Allison* Ballymena Ulster 0 0 0 0
Michael Milne UCD Leinster 3 26 0 0
Declan Adamson* Clontarf Leinster 0 0 0 0
John McKee Old Belvedere Leinster 4 55 0 0
Charlie Ward* Clontarf Leinster 0 0 0 0
Thomas Ahern* Shannon Munster 0 0 0 0
Niall Murray Buccaneers Connacht 5 325 0 0
Ronan Watters St Mary’s College Leinster 1 8 0 0
Ciaran Booth* Sale Sharks IQ Rugby 0 0 0 0
Colm Reilly Buccaneers Connacht 2 30 1 5
Cormac Foley St Mary’s College Leinster 5 154 1 5
Ben Healy Garryowen Munster 3 150 0 22
Sean French Cork Constitution Munster 3 192 0 0
Rob Russell Dublin University Leinster 5 65 0 0

*Uncapped at this level

Where are the key areas? 

No surprises here, to me the key areas are the front row and the halfbacks. With two Ulster players in the back row, it also looks interesting but I reckon it’ll play a secondary part to the other two areas. 

Ireland have put their experienced players in the front row and they have formed a formidable partnership. However, they are going to have to get parity in the set piece and, if they do, then how the half backs use this is going to be crucial. 

The Ireland management team have gambled with Jake Flannery at out half, the Shannon youngster having played all his Six Nations games at full back.  The absence of Harry Byrne, due to injury, is a big loss for Ireland and how Flannery responds will be crucial to Ireland‘s cause. 

Of course the back row are going to have to support the half backs and the selection of the comparatively untested Ulster duo of McCann and Allison alongside Hodnett is interesting. The big question is will they be able to support Flannery or will they have to dig in to support the scrum? 

Who is going to win? 

It’s going to be really tight and to me it’ll come down to whichever front row comes out on top and, I think that here, Ireland have a slight edge. 

Hopefully, it will be as thrilling a game as their last meeting with the same result. It should be a cracker. 

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