BACK in the day, it was the Ireland U-21s who provided the stepping stone between the schools and adult representative games, with regular fixtures taking place in the late 1980s.
Then, as now, England's vast playing resources saw them regularly field gargantuan sides containing players who would not have looked out of place on their senior team. Nonetheless, Ireland's youngsters always seemed to find a way to unsettle their bigger opponents and won the first two U-21 fixtures against the English in 1990 and '91.
And, if Mike Ruddock's players are looking for inspiration ahead of tomorrow's clash with Owen Farrell and Co, they could do worse than look back to that opening meeting at Moseley in 1990, when a side coached by Gerry Murphy secured a fantastic 22-16 win. Three members of that side -- full-back Conor O'Shea, out-half Niall Malone and second-row Gabriel Fulcher -- would go on to earn senior Ireland caps.
ENGLAND 16 IRELAND 22
October 29, 1990, Moseley
Ireland -- C O'Shea (Lansdowne); D Hernan (UCD), J Russell (Instonians), N Nurray (Cork Con), R Hennessy (Lansdowne); N Malone (Loughborough U), D Tobin (Young Munster); P Soden (Cork Con), M Patton (Bangor), S Tonge (Wanderers); E O'Sullivan (Old Crescent), G Fulcher (UCD); S Rooney (UCD), K McKee (CIYMS), B O'Mahony (UCC).