Carolan: We must keep the door open for late developers
Ireland will begin their World Rugby U-20 Championship campaign against Wales in Manchester on Tuesday and while some players will go on to bigger and better things, coach Nigel Carolan has reiterated the importance of leaving the door open for late developers.
Take Ultan Dillane as a prime example. The powerhouse second-row has had an outstanding season with Connacht and although he won honours with Ireland at U-18 and U-19 level, he never played for the U-20s. Carolan recently suggested that Ireland were "a little bit behind the eight-ball physically and technically" compared to other nations but he is adamant that players should not be picked for their sheer size alone.
"I think it can happen, I don't know if it is happening," he responded when asked if players in Ireland were ever picked for their physicality over skill.
"There's examples where there's guys coming through into international rugby. Guys like Ultan Dillane, who again was probably seen as a slower burner, guys like Finlay Bealham. They weren't the stars at U-18 or even U-20. Ultan didn't even play for the U-20s at the time.
"I think as long as we keep the door open for these guys, as long as you can see the potential, it's important that you resource potential rather than resourcing talent. It's really important.
"That's why I believe you've got to keep the door open for all players, and if you identify what's good early, and again it mightn't always be talent.
"It could be some of the personal characteristics.
"I think it's important that we don't go too narrow, too early and we keep the door open. Especially for Irish rugby players, and players genetically, they start to mature a little bit later. So, we've got to keep the door open for those guys as well. It's something that we're very hot on."
Carolan may feel that his youngsters lag behind in the physicality stakes but he believes that the elements are in place to catch up and indeed be very competitive at the U-20 World Cup.
"The IRFU are just looking to support what is already in place," he maintained.
"It's not about taking over or doing things differently. Currently, it's not broken. The Irish system is producing players as it is, and this is just to ensure that we've got a more rounded player.
"Schools and clubs are doing a great job, and it's just to assist what is already in place, and to ensure that there's no stone left unturned in terms of maximising what we have."