Thursday 29 September 2016

Ireland U-20s aim to finish Six Nations with third straight win

Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30

Ireland U-20 coach Nigel Carolan (SPORTSFILE)
Ireland U-20 coach Nigel Carolan (SPORTSFILE)

On a strict reading of the form book, it wouldn't seem as if there is much for Ireland and Scotland U-20s to play for at Donnybrook (7.35) this evening as two earlier defeats for each side has left the Six Nations title out of reach but with the Junior World Cup just around the corner, places are up for grabs.

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Despite defeats in their first two games, Nigel Carolan has largely stuck with the same squad but there is no doubting that there's still a couple of positions in which players can stake their claim.

Having beaten and lost to the same teams as Ireland, Scotland arrive in Dublin with an identical record but it is the hosts who have the momentum behind them having won two on the bounce.

'Momentum' has been the key word in the Ireland camp this week and forwards coach Peter Malone insists that this evening's game is "massive".

"It's about momentum. If we can finish on a positive note, three wins - away to England, at home to Italy and at home to Scotland and on a bit of a growth and build the momentum into June or it can be really a review or revisit after Scotland so it is a big game," he maintained.

Momentum

"It's the exact same for Scotland. They're looking at this and saying, 'We can have a real bit of momentum here, we beat England, we beat Italy and we beat Ireland and we can have a real bit of momentum going into the World Cup'.

"So I think it's a massive game for us and I think we would walk away at the end of the Six Nations if we get a great performance saying, 'Yeah we're definitely growing and we've seen growth from Wales to France to England and maybe a little blip against Italy but we can finish on a positive and it will be disappointing if we don't'."

Carolan has made three changes with scrum-half Stephen Kerins returning from the knee injury that ruled him out of the win over Italy.

James Bollard (loosehead prop) and Sean O'Connor (second-row) are handed their first starts of the campaign and both will be desperate to make an impression against a powerful Scottish pack.

Ireland can ill-afford another slow start but there is a feeling that the players are beginning to find their feet at this level and that should ensure that they head to the World Cup on the back of three wins. Verdict: Ireland U-20s

Ireland U-20 - B Connon; H Keenan, S Daly, C O'Brien, J Stockdale; J McPhillips, S Kerins; J Bollard, A McBurney, C O'Donnell; S O'Connor, J Ryan (capt); C Gallagher, W Connors, G Jones. Reps: H Kean, A Porter, A Coyle, P Claffey, M Deegan, J Poland, P Kiernan, M Byrne.

Scotland U-20 - T Galbraith (capt); D Graham, R Hutchinson, G Taylor, B Robbins; A Hastings, H Fraser; M McCallum, J Kerr, C Sheldon; C Hunter-Hill, S Ainslie; S Burnside, M Smith, A Miller. Reps: L Anderson, G Thornton, A Nicol, H Bain, L Scott, R Dawson, R Nairn, R Howarth.

Ireland U-20 v Scotland U-20, Live, RTE 2, 7.35pm

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