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U20 'Bleus' backlash expected but Irish to do enough for points

France U20s v Ireland U20s,

Mazamet (near Toulouse), Tonight, 7.45

It would be dangerous to assume that France's opening day draw (8-8) in Scotland is a fair reflection of their standing. For starters, the Scots are improving rapidly at this level.

In addition, the dogs in the streets know France is an entirely different animal in the comfort of its own yard than it is anywhere outside the homeland.

Ireland weren't even tested in the scrums by what was a very weak Italy (39-0) in Athlone last week. It was definitely a case of the heavy pitch and the ill-prepared Italians making it a messy match.

The Ireland pack is a relatively light, mobile, fluid unit which will only be seen to best effect on a fast track. The concerns over the frontrow were unfounded last Friday as Bryan Cagney, Niall Annett and Jack O'Connell scrummaged well.

Ulster's Annett was right on the money to enjoy a harvest of possession from his jumpers, Ben Marshall, David O'Callaghan and Patrick Butler.

Perhaps, the backrow was the most impressive unit as captain Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Butler showed strength, pace, knowledge of the game and intelligence to march on against the Azzurri.

For all the forwards' graft, the strength of this Irish side resides in the backline where there are any number of threats. What's more, their potential, despite the six tries against Italy, has only been barely tapped into so far.

It would be dangerous, even irresponsible, in the extreme to prepare for anything other than a French backlash. After all, they followed their 9-6 defeat to Ireland in Athlone last year with four resounding wins to claim the championship in spectacular fashion.

Verdict: Ireland

France U20: J Fritz; C Lagain, M Lamoulie, R Barthélémy, J Sinzelle; G Bosch, A Bales; A Erbani, T Molcard (capt), J Grange, A Erbani, G Souvent, J Sousa, G Lamache, M Ivaldi, B Geledan.

Ireland U20: A Conway; D Hudson, B Macken, N Spence, S Zebo; J McKinney, J Cooney; B Cagney, N Annett, J O'Connell, D O'Callaghan, B Marshall, R Ruddock (capt), D Ryan, P Butler.


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