Tuesday 28 February 2017

Ruddock calls on U-20s to deliver again

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

IRELAND'S historic first age-grade win in France last time out has heightened expectations ahead of tonight's U-20s clash at Dubarry Park, Athlone, and coach Mike Ruddock wants another big performance from his side despite making a number of changes for the visit of Italy.

Tadgh Beirne is handed his first start alongside Ian Henderson in the second-row, while Jordan Coughlan, Conor Gilsenan and Jack Conan pack down together in the back-row. In the backs, Foster Horan is named on the wing and Kieran Marmion returns to the scrum-half position.

JJ Hanrahan, who kicked the winning penalty against France, continues at inside-centre.

Despite the changes, Ruddock expects a similarly high level of performance from his side.

"We are looking forward to this week's test, in particular to following up our two previous displays," he said. "We achieved victory in our last two games because we have outworked the opposition and expect the same this week, along with a quality display of skills."

Italy played their first game of the tournament last week after their opening-round clash with England was postponed, but they went down 19-5 to France despite holding the home side scoreless for the opening half-hour.

And with their good record in Athlone -- where they have already beaten Wales this year -- Ruddock's side will be expected to secure a third successive win in the competition. That would set Ireland up nicely to face Scotland at home on March 9 and then England away a week later for a shot at securing Grand Slam glory.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland U-20 (v Italy) -- S Layden (Connacht); C Finn (Connacht), C Farrell (Ulster), JJ Hanrahan (Munster), F Horan (Leinster); P Jackson (Ulster, Capt), K Marmion (Connacht); K McCall (Ulster), N Scannell (Munster), P Reilly (Leinster); T Beirne (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster); J Coghlan (Leinster), C Gilsenan (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster). Reps: J Rael (Munster), D Merrey (Leinster), J Cawley (Leinster), D Qualter (Connacht), A Conneely (Connacht), L McGrath (Leinster), C Marsh (Leinster), S Olding (Ulster).

Ireland v Italy,

Live, RTE.ie, 7.05

Irish Independent

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