Carolan expects 'formidable' test from Pumitas
Published 20/06/2016 | 02:30
Ireland coach Nigel Carolan is confident his side can step up another notch this evening (kick-off 5.30) and reach a first final of the World Rugby U-20 Championship.
Not for the first time, the team standing in Ireland's way of progressing to glory at a World Cup is Argentina, with 'Los Pumitas' also bidding to reach their first final in the nine-year history of the competition.
England and South Africa, the only two countries to win it other than New Zealand, meet in the second semi-final this evening at Manchester City Academy Stadium, with the final taking place next Saturday at Sale Sharks' home ground, the AJ Bell Stadium.
Carolan's side have already smashed down a few barriers at this championship, most notably becoming the first national men's side from Ireland to defeat New Zealand, as well as being the first from this country to win all three pool matches.
"We did a good review of the Georgian match and looked ahead to Argentina. But the lads also got time to recover and we are happy with our preparations heading into this one," said Carolan.
"We have a very good set-piece and would hope that will continue, but at this stage of the tournament there is never going to be much between teams."
Ireland's form in the pool, coming from 17-0 to defeat Six Nations grand slam holders Wales 26-25, then inflicting the only defeat on New Zealand 33-24 ,which ultimately sent them crashing out, before making 13 changes and ousting Georgia 35-7.
"We have come through a very tough pool and have managed to deal with the challenges we have encountered," said Carolan.
"We have had a good look at Argentina and know that they will be formidable opposition. They have played some very good rugby to get to this point and we will need another big performance to get over them.
"They have a good blend, can go direct or go wide and have a high intensity to their game. They are a dangerous side. But we feel we that we can match them."
Los Pumitas are coached by Nicolas Fernandez Lobbe, the former Argentine international who, like his younger brother Juan Martin, lived in Manchester for a few years while playing for Sale.
It is the second time Argentina have made it to the semi-finals, finishing fourth when the tournament was held in South Africa in 2012.
Argentina, like Ireland, come into the semi-final with three straight wins, having defeated France 24-15, South Africa 19-13 and Japan on a scoreline of 39-20.
They have scored eight tries and conceded six for a points difference of 82-48, with Ireland scoring 10 tries and conceding nine for a points difference of 94-56.
"We have prepared very well. It is very demanding competition, five competitive matches in less than three weeks," said Carolan.
"The key to it is recovery and making sure players are not overloading. We made a lot of changes for the Georgian match and that gave some players a break."
The Irish team shows just one change from the side which defeated New Zealand for the first time in the second round of games, with Sean O'Connor from Cashel coming in to the second-row to partner captain James Ryan.
O'Connor replaces Sligo's Cillian Gallagher, who was injured last time out when Ireland - having made 13 changes to the starting side - defeated Georgia 35-7.
Gallagher is one of three players to have his tournament cut short through injury, with prop Conor Kenny going after the opening game, while out-half Bill Johnston was injured against New Zealand.
"It's a big occasion for everyone and we are looking forward to it and hope to give a good account of ourselves," added Carolan.
Ireland - J Stockdale; M Byrne, S Daly, C O'Brien, H Keenan; J McPhillips, S Kerins; A Porter, A McBurney, B Betts; S O'Connor, J Ryan; G Jones, D Aspil, M Deegan. Replacements: V O'Brien, J Bollard, A Coyle, E Mintern, K Brown, N Saunders, B Connon, J O'Brien.
Argentina v Ireland,
Live, TG4/Sky Sports 3, 5.30