Thursday 22 February 2018

Carolan urges U-20s to express themselves in opener

Garry Ringrose
Garry Ringrose
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As soon as Nigel Carolan took over the reins from Mike Ruddock, his mantra was clear: he wants his Ireland U-20s team to be one that plays heads-up rugby and one that isn't afraid to make mistakes.

Sounds simply in theory but his philosophy is one that has grown over the last decade, both with Connacht and within the national set-up.

Carolan's time with Ireland began back in 2004 when not long after he had finished playing with Galwegians, he took up a role with the IRFU as a technical analyst.

Replacing a coach who last year led Ireland to a fourth-place finish at the Junior World Cup isn't an easy task but Carolan admitted that he is going into this evening's opening Six Nations game in Italy with a fresh approach.

"We're not going in necessarily focusing on results, and that doesn't mean we don't want to win," he stressed.

"I think this team could beat all five of the other nations on any given day. The challenge through the Six Nations is to back it up every week.

"If we create the right environment where players are making decisions and taking ownership throughout the game, I'm not really worried about results.

"I'll know that we're bringing players through and the results should look after themselves."

Despite the fresh approach, Carolan has named six players from last year's squad in his starting XV with another (Jack Cullen) amongst the replacements which he maintained is a reflection of what he and his coaching staff are trying to create within the squad.

Leinster quintet Billy Dardis, Garry Ringrose, captain Nick McCarthy, Oisin Heffernan and Josh Murphy have all played at this level before, while Connacht back-row Rory Moloney also starts.

"That's probably helped in our decision to give guys more responsibility to the players because there is a bit of experience," Carolan said.

"And to the guys who haven't been there before, we're trying to get them up to speed with the other guys.

"It's key that we have guys in those important positions who have that experience from the environment."

Amongst the new faces included in the side is Munster flyer Greg O'Shea who starts on the wing and Leinster second-row David O'Connor who is the younger brother of Ulster's Alan.

"They have to be ready to think on their feet and learn from their mistakes. It's a little bit different and more adaptive. It's exciting to see how it's going to turn out."

If the quality of players that have been produced in recent years by the Connacht academy under Carolan's watchful eye are anything to go by, this will indeed be another exciting time in underage Irish rugby.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland U20 - B Dardis; G O'Shea, G Ringrose, F Cleary, J Owens; R Byrne, N McCarthy (capt); J Loughman, Z McCall, O Heffernan; D O'Connor, A Thompson; J Murphy, R Moloney, L Dow. Reps: A McBurney, M Lagan, C O'Donnell, C Romaine, N Timoney, J Cullen, J Carbery, S Arnold.

Irish Independent

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