Tuesday 27 September 2016

Gaffney aiming for big finish to U-20s' World Cup odyssey

John Fallon

Published 15/06/2015 | 02:30

Gaffney is hoping to finish the season on a high note
Gaffney is hoping to finish the season on a high note

Ireland full-back Ciaran Gaffney is hoping for a big finish to the World Rugby U-20 Championship as they bid to capture fifth place and equal their second best finish to the tournament.

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Gaffney is also hoping to finish a season interrupted by injury on a high note, with Ireland taking on Wales in Viadana this evening in a bid to secure a Saturday showdown with either Australia or Scotland in the battle for fifth.

Ireland's hopes of winning the tournament ended when they went down 25-3 to New Zealand on Wednesday but Gaffney said they still have a lot to play for.

Wales defeated Ireland 19-12 in the Six Nations when Gaffney, in the side which reached the semi-finals of the World Championship in New Zealand, returned from injury.

Physical The Galwegians clubman knows that they will face a big task against a Welsh side who went down to England and France and whose only win here in Italy was against Japan.

"They're a big, physical side. They're probably bigger than New Zealand again and they like to throw the ball around as you could see in the Japanese game. They're a good offloading side. We've picked a couple of points where we can try and go at them but we're expecting a good battle.

"The tournament itself hasn't really kicked off for me fully yet. I've only got one game against Scotland so I'm really looking forward to this Wales game. Last year went really well for me over in New Zealand so I'm really looking forward to Wales," said Gaffney, who has just finished his first year in the Connacht Academy.

A former Galway minor footballer, who had an eye on proceedings in Pearse Stadium yesterday as the Irish side went through their captain's run on a wet and dark afternoon in Brescia, Gaffney has featured for the Connacht Eagles and is looking forward to pushing on.

"I've just after completing my first year in the academy. I did a year in the sub academy last year when I finished school. So I'm going into my second year now and hoping to push on again with the Eagles and if the opportunity arises with the seniors.

"But for now the aim is to get the win for that fifth and sixth place play-off but obviously we have to get past Wales first," he added.

Coach Nigel Carolan has made five changes from the New Zealand game as they bid to gain revenge for the Six Nations loss in Wales. Charlie Rock starts at scrum-half in place of injured skipper Nick McCarthy, with Gaffney returning and he takes over from Billy Dardis at full-back.

Stephen Fitzgerald also returns on the right wing for Jack Owens, while there are two changes up front as Carolan rotates. Nick Timoney takes over from Lorcan Dow at No 8 while Conor Oliver comes in for Rory Moloney at openside flanker.

Meanwhile, Ireland's new captain Josh Murphy says they have put the disappointment of the New Zealand loss behind them and are now determined to claim fifth place in the World Rugby U-20 Championship.

Murphy takes over the captaincy from Nick McCarthy after the scrum-half was injured in the 25-3 loss to the Baby Blacks and he became the third member of the squad to have his tournament ended prematurely.

Enniscorthy native Murphy will skipper an Irish side for the first time this evening.

Murphy, who spent the first 12 years of his life in Enniscorthy before moving to Dublin to attend St Michael's College, said they had little time to dwell on the loss to New Zealand.

Review "It was very disappointing on the night but the next day, the next morning, we did our video review straight away. There are a lot of things to improve on, a lot of things we did well and straight on to the Wales game.

"We saw in the Six Nations that they're a very big side, probably bigger than New Zealand, but that doesn't faze us. We got a bit pushed around by them in the Six Nations and lost quite a few points there but I think we've changed since then and we're ready for them," said the UCD Med student who is in the Leinster academy.

Ireland U20 (v Wales) - C Gaffney; S Fitzgerald, G Ringrose, S Arnold, J Stockdale; J Carberry, C Rock; A Porter, S McNulty, O Heffernan; D O'Connor, A Thompson; J Murphy, C Oliver, N Timoney. Reps: A McBurney, L O'Connor, C O'Donnell, L Dow, R Moloney, T Quinlan, F Cleary, J Owens.

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