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Nothing to fear against French


Ireland U-20 head coach Mike Ruddock. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Ireland U-20 head coach Mike Ruddock. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Ireland U-20 head coach Mike Ruddock. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

THE faces of coach Mike Ruddock and captain Luke McGrath said it all minutes after their valiant 31-26 defeat by New Zealand in Vannes late into last Thursday night.

France U-20 v Ireland U-20 - Junior World Championship

La Roche-sur-Yon, France, today 7.15 (Live TG4)

It was the one that got away. A first win over New Zealand at any international level. A first U-20 World Cup semi-final. Gone.

There are few if any challenges left in the tournament that could right the minds of the players and coaches outside that of confronting France in their own back yard.

The way makeshift centre Rory Scannell stepped up to all the duties vacated by Tom Daly's broken hand was a reflection of the even standard throughout this squad.

It is what has allowed Ruddock to rotate his side without any discernible impact on performance, especially in the front row where two first-class units have been nothing short of outstanding.

The motivation for Ireland is to retrain their ambition on equaling last year's best-ever fifth-place finish in South Africa.

To do this, Ireland will have to take down France for just the second time on their own soil at this level, just as they did in the 2012 Six Nations.

While the Irish can consider themselves the unluckiest country not to make the final four, France have been thoroughly underwhelming.

They started out by falling miserably 30-6 to England on day one, taking apart a poor USA 45-3 on day two and running holders South Africa close (26-19) on day three.

On known form, Ireland have nothing to fear from the French. This is when the hosts can be at their most dangerous. Ireland will have to be back to the intensity they showed against New Zealand to make a return to a fifth-place prize against either Argentina or Australia at this venue on Sunday.

Ireland U-20: R Scholes; D Sweetnam, T Farrell, R Scannell, A Wootton; S Crosbie, L McGrath, capt; P Dooley, B Byrne, C Taylor, S McCarthy, J Donnan, C Joyce, J van der Flier, R Murphy.

France U-20: T Thomas; G Lacroix, F Vialelle, F Bouvier, W Thomas; E Selponi, B Serin; C Baille, R Ruffenach, K Vartanov, P Jedrasiak (Capt), J Aliouat, Y Camara, F Cros, M Babillot.