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Wednesday 22 February 2017

'Confident' McPhillips ready to pull the strings

Published 03/02/2017 | 02:30

Johnny McPhillips is one of two players in the starting line up for Ireland’s U20s who are returning from last year Picture: Sportsfile
Johnny McPhillips is one of two players in the starting line up for Ireland’s U20s who are returning from last year Picture: Sportsfile

Much like his Ireland U-20s team last year, as time went on, Johnny McPhillips began to find his feet in a position that he hadn't played in all that often prior to the Six Nations.

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With Bill Johnston missing the tournament, Nigel Carolan was forced to shuffle his pack as he handed the number 10 jersey to Ulster's McPhillips.

A former England U-18 international, McPhillips made the move to Ireland a couple of years ago. His mother hails from Waterford while his father grew up in Belfast.

Now back for a second year, there is a renewed confidence about McPhillips' demeanour and that's not to mention the considerable bulk that he has added to his frame.

Importance

The fit-again Johnston trained with Munster this week and is due to link up with the Ireland U-20s so McPhillips understands the importance of hitting the ground running, both from a personal and collective point of view.

Defeats to Wales and France in their opening two Six Nations games last season left Ireland on the back foot and although they managed to win their remaining three, a win in Scotland this evening is imperative for the confidence levels of this year's crop.

"There is almost a feeling of a little bit of responsibility," said McPhillips who is one of two players in the starting XV back from last year.

"Those players last year and the year before that made the transition easy for us new boys because they had been there and done that. I will try to do that as much as I can with the new players, whether it's the detail or preparation or whatever it needs to be."

McPhillips had spent five seasons training with Newcastle United before he turned his focus to rugby. Playing mainly from full-back, he had just two British and Irish Cup games under his belt at out-half when Carolan asked him to pull the strings in the Six Nations opener.

"It was all very new to me," he admitted. "Maybe I wasn't as confident as I was going into the World Cup. I did a lot of work on my goal-kicking with Richie Murphy as well. Once your confidence is there to back yourself then everything comes easier."

Ireland have plenty of firepower out wide and if the pack can provide the platform, they will be confident of getting their Six Nations campaign off to an ideal start this evening.

Verdict: Ireland

Scotland U-20 - D Graham; R Naim, C Pringle, C Hutchinson, R McCann; J Henderson, A Simmers; G Thornton, F Renwick, A Nicol; A Craig, C Hunter-Hill (capt); L Crosbie, M Fagerson, T Dodd. Reps: R Smith, D Winning, F Bradbury, H Bain, J Ure, B Flockhart, C Shiel, S McDowall.

Ireland U-20 - 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.

Scotland U-20s v Ireland U-20s, Live, RTé 2, 8.30

Irish Independent

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