Thursday 19 April 2018

Heffernan wants U-20s to pack a punch against France

Oisin Heffernan
Oisin Heffernan
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Oisin Heffernan has come up against France a few times in his fledgling career and despite the fact that he knows what to expect at Dubarry Park this evening (7.05), it doesn't make it any easier to counteract their inevitable threat.

Ireland were on the wrong end of a 23-13 defeat in last year's Six Nations and with several players including Heffernan still in the current squad, they are eager to prove a point to themselves and to their new coach Nigel Carolan.

"I have a bit of experience of playing France in the Six Nations last year and with the U-19s," the tighthead prop said.

"It's all about not letting them have their space and letting them play with they flair that they love to do. We need to get in their face and take it to them.

"We connected as a group really well from the start because we've been playing with each other since U-18s and 19s, so there really isn't too many new faces. That always helps."

Carolan has made just two changes to his starting XV - one of which was forced upon him after winger Greg O'Shea picked up an injury last week.

The highly-rated Stephen Fitzgerald takes his place while Ulster's Sam Arnold comes into the midfield in place of Fergal Cleary who drops to the bench.

Ireland have watched France closely this week and in particular their 47-7 win over Scotland last Friday.

Ireland scored 47 points of their own away from home last Friday but, according to Heffernan (pictured), the forward pack need to up their performance again if they are to have any hope of upsetting a French side that is littered with exciting prospects.

"We set a benchmark against Italy but we have a lot more to show," he stressed. "We have a very strong pack and we can really do well in the maul.

"I felt we lacked a little bit in the scrum (against Italy) and we can still give a lot more.

"We've been practising our scrum all the time. We really want to be forward-oriented and be known as a forward pack to be reckoned with.

"We saw them against Scotland over the weekend. They're big, physical lads up front and they have the usual French flair. If you give them the space, they love to play.

"It's more about confronting them up front in the scrum and the line-out because they're a big bunch of lads," he added.

If this Ireland pack are to become renowned, then they won't face many tougher tests than this French side who are coached by former international second-row Fabien Pelous.

Like his team-mates, Heffernan pointed to the freedom in which Carolan has given the players.

"I think it helps because you can solve problems on the pitch yourself rather than looking up to the manager. It was a lot to take in at the start but we're getting used to it now."

If Ireland are to come away with what would be a crucial win this evening, they will have to prove that they are indeed comfortable with the new strategy.

Verdict: France

Ireland U-20s - B Dardis; J Owens, G Ringrose, S Arnold, S Fitzgerald; R Byrne, N McCarthy (c); 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 Carberry, F Cleary.

Irish Independent

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