All change for U-20s as Ruddock prays for miracle
A MUCH-changed Ireland U-20 side take on Italy this afternoon, but their fate will almost certainly be sealed later this evening when South Africa take on England.
Mike Ruddock's charges were 20 minutes from determining their own destiny against England last Friday, but their fourth-quarter collapse means that even a bonus point win is unlikely to be enough to book their place in the top four play-offs.
Ireland lie third in Pool B on five points, four behind the English and one behind South Africa, and even the full complement today is likely to come up short behind New Zealand, who look set to bounce back from their shock defeat to Wales and book their place in the semis as the best runner-up with a bonus-point win over Fiji.
After asking so much of his first XV in the first two matches, Ruddock has rung the changes, with the talismanic pair of Jordan Coghlan and JJ Hanrahan missing out.
Luke Marshall replaces Kieran Marmion alongside new fly-half Jack Carty, while Conor Finn comes in for Barry Daly on the right wing. Mike Sherlock gets the nod at full-back, with Peter Nelson switching to inside-centre alongside Chris Farrell.
Sam Coghlan Murray keeps his place on the left wing.
Up front, James Rael replaces Niall Scannell, with Alan O'Connor, Aaron Conneely and Josh van der Flier coming into the side.
Des Merrey remains at prop, while Iain Henderson stays in the second-row and Old Belvedere's Jack Conan remains at No 8 where he will captain the side.
The Italians have shipped 116 points in their two games and Ireland should book a place in the second tier of the play-offs comfortably.
Ireland v Italy,
Live, TG4, 2.45
IRELAND -- M Sherlock (Clontarf/Leinster); C Finn (Buccaneers/Connacht), P Nelson (Dungannon/Ulster), C Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), S Coghlan Murray (UCD/Leinster); J Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster); D Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster), J Rael (Garryowen/Munster), P Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster); A O'Connor (UCD/Leinster), I Henderson (QUB/Ulster); A Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht), J Van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), J Conan (capt, Old Belvedere/Leinster). Reps: N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), J Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), T Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster), S Buckley (Garryowen/Munster), K Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht), C Marsh (DUFC/Leinster), S Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).