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U20s to outclass Italy

Ireland U20s v Italy U20s, Dubarry Park, Friday 7.35, Live RTE 2

It has become common practice for the Ireland U20 side to be dominated by Leinster players and this season is no different with eight selected to get Allen Clarke'soutfit off to the best possible start in Athlone.

Munster's Brian O'Hara and Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran are on their way back from injury in what is otherwise a highly-skilled Ireland squad.

Thus far they have not been able to click, to put all the bits and pieces of their game into action, against provincial development sides. They will have to scrimmage well and protect the ball zealously.

Italy offers the perfect start to the season, bringing size, power and the physicality to go with it -- presumably, however, without the class to make it tell.

Centre Nevin Spence, scrum-half John Cooney, prop Jack O'Connell, lock David O'Callaghan, flankers Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock and lock Brian Hayes will bring the experience from last season.

The level of competition can be measured by the fact that Hayes is only on the bench as O'Callaghan and Leinster's Ben Marshall are the preferred second-row pairing.

Ruddock, the son of Worcester coach Mike, will captain Ireland as they seek to improve on their runner-up finish last season.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland U20s: 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.

Italy U20s: TBC.