Friday 20 April 2018

Clarke young guns aim to go one better

Ireland U-20s v Italy U-20s,

Dubarry Park, 7.35.

Seven players return from last year's squad for the Ireland U-20s' season opener against Italy at Athlone's Dubarry Park.

Allen Clarke's charges are looking to go one better this time around after finishing runners-up to France on points difference after beating everyone bar Scotland in the 2009 U-20 Six Nations.

Clarke will be heartened with the news that five of the returnees are in the pack, with prop Jack O'Connell, lock David O'Callaghan, and back-rows Dominic Ryan and captain Rhys Ruddock in the team proper and Brian Hayes, who picked up an AIB Cup winners medal last weekend, on the bench.

Centre Nevin Spence and UCD scrum-half John Cooney will provide experience behind the scrum and they're joined by the exciting Blackrock duo of Brendan Macken and Andrew Conway, who will look to continue their development at international level.

Verdict: Home win.

Ireland U-20 (v Italy) -- 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. Subs: D Doyle, S Maguire, B Hayes, R O'Sullivan, M Heaney, B Kingston, E Griffin.

Ireland Women v Italy Women,

Ashbourne RFC, 7.30.

Kevin West has named four new caps in his Ireland Women's team for their opening Six Nations clash with Italy at Ashbourne.

Navan second-row Mary Louise Reilly, wings Nora Stapleton and Alison Miller and prop Chris Fanning all make their international bow.

But they'll be helped by the experience of skipper Fiona Coghlan and half-backs Tania Rosser and Joanne O'Sullivan who have more than 140 appearances between them.

Verdict: Home win.

Ireland Women (v Italy) -- N Briggs; N Stapleton, G Davitt, S Houston, A Miller; J O'Sullivan, T Rosser; F Coghlan (capt), C Fanning, E McManamly; K O'Loughlin, ML Reilly; C Staunton, C Molloy, J Neville. Subs: G Bourke, L Day, C Mahon, L Austin, L Beamish, H Brosnan, E Downey.

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Irish Independent

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