What Lies Ahead For The Ireland Under-20s?

Under-20 Six Nations Championship Round 1, Irish Independent Park, Cork 31/1/2020 Ireland U20 vs Scotland U20 The Ireland team stands for a minutes silence Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Noel McNamara is back at the helm as last years Grand Slam champions opened this years Under-20 Six Nations campaign with two bonus-point wins from two games, overcoming both Scotland and Wales. Again McNamara will be assisted by Colm Tucker and Kieran Tucker as they hope to build on the success of 2019.

The coaches have assembled a strong 37 man squad which is dominated by Leinster players. A total of 20 players from the eastern province’s academy have received a call up which is testament to  many plaudits they have received in recent times. Ulster will have seven representatives while Munster will have five players with Connacht having four players involved. Loughborough University’s Dan Kelly makes up the squad being Irish qualified. 

This years panel is captained by Banbridge and Ulster No. 8 David McCann. McCann is one of seven players returning from last years triumphant squad. A former Ireland Under 19 captain, McCann’s performances in last years Junior World Cup in Argentina caught many an eye, particularly his powerful carrying off the base of the scrum and his two tries in the opening day win against England.

Returning too for a second successive year is Munster’s Thomas Ahern with Leinster’s Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny, John McKee, Charlie Ward and Max O’Reilly also back for another tilt at 6 Nations glory. 

Clarkson’s return will come as a major boost for McNamara and his team. The Leinster tighthead played in all five of last years games and he has also been prominent for Leinster ‘A’ this term. Ulster’s Tom Stewart has impressed this season for Ulster and he looks a good bet to pack down in the front row beside Clarkson at hooker. 

Behind the scrum Ulster winger Ethan McIlroy is rewarded for some dazzling displays in recent times with a call up. After impressing for Methody in the Ulster Schools cup before going to Queens, the speedster showed no nerves when he received his first senior call up to the Ulster squad with a strong display against Leinster in the RDS just before Christmas. 

Cork Con’s Jack Crowley has impressed this year and has shown nerves of steel when given the responsibility of goal kicker while UCC centre Harry O’Riordan is another to keep an eye on. 

All home games will take place in Irish Independent Park in Cork with most being shown live on TV.

Turning attention to later on in the year and the 2020 Under 20 World Cup. This years tournament will take place in Italy and Ireland will be hoping to build on last years 8th place finish. The draw for this years competition was made recently and Ireland will open their campaign against last years hosts Argentina before taking on champions France. Ireland will then close out the group stages against Japan before the knockout stages begin. 

This years tourney will have three groups of four with the best placed runner up joining the three group winners in the semi-finals. The tournament will run from 28th June to July 18th, but there’s plenty of rugby to be played before then. 

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