Gallagher backs U-20s to deal with increased expectation
Published 02/02/2017 | 02:30
After Ireland finally ended their hoodoo over New Zealand back in November, it has almost become forgotten that five months before that famous victory in Chicago, the U-20s had created their own history by beating the Baby Blacks for the first time.
It was part of a run that saw Ireland make it all the way to the Junior World Cup decider but they couldn't manage to get over the final hurdle.
Tomorrow evening in Scotland marks the beginning of a new chapter for the country's future stars as they begin their quest for Six Nations glory.
Cillian Gallagher was one of the standout performers last season and he is one of three players back again this year, two of whom start tomorrow - Gallagher and Ulster out-half Johnny McPhillips.
It's been a tough six months for Gallagher, who tore ligaments in his shoulder in the pool win over Georgia. Surgery was required and he faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Expectations are high again this year and Gallagher knows that there will be a greater focus on his side after that win over New Zealand.
"The team is going to get so much more attention because of what we did last year," the Connacht forward said.
"Last year showed what we can do as a country. At the start of the year, we weren't massively rated. We were written off after the first two games of the Six Nations. And then we had a good end to it."
Gallagher's long-term position is almost certainly going to be second-row but for now at least, Nigel Carolan has selected him at blindside as he looks to beef up his pack.
Ireland's forwards are not as big as they were last year but Gallagher doesn't envisage that being an issue.
"Last year we had a team that was statistically big but it didn't mean that we always dominated," he said. "Maybe physically we're not as big stats-wise but I can't really see that being an issue.
"We dominated when we had our mindset right and we came together as a pack and executed everything with unbelievable aggression and persistence. That's the mentality that I think this pack is going to bring."
The exciting Jack Kelly skippers the side from full-back while Gavin Mullin, son of former Ireland centre Brendan, starts in midfield.
Ireland U-20s (v Scotland) - J Kelly (capt); J Larmour, G Mullin, C Frawley, C Hogan; J McPhillips, J Stewart; J Conway, T McElroy, P Cooper; F Wycherley, O Dowling; C Gallagher, P Boyle, C Doris. Reps: A Moloney, R Mulvihill, C Connolly, J Regan, M Rea, J Lyons, C Fitzgerald, T O'Brien.
• George Kruis has been ruled out of England's opening Six Nations match against France with damaged knee ligaments.sustained in training this week revealed that he has damaged knee ligaments.