Six Ireland U20 stars who could one day start for the senior team
The World Rugby Under-20 Championship final didn’t go according to plan for Ireland.
Having seen off New Zealand, Wales, Georgia and Argentina en route to the final, today they met a stunning display from England that they simply couldn’t cope with. But a 45-21 defeat doesn’t tell the full story of this excellent Ireland team that has a huge amount to offer going forward. A number of players in particular stood out for Nigel Carolan’s team.
Lansdowne No 8 Max Deegan was Ireland’s main ball carrying threat throughout the tournament. At 6’4” and 17 stone he is a monster in stature and a demon in the loose. Add to that a solid game in defence and set-piece and Ireland have a player that will almost certainly go on to fill a slot in the senior team’s back row in the coming seasons. He’s already been signed up to the Leinster Academy, and nominated for world under-20 player of the year, and we could even be seeing this man get game time in the Pro12 in the coming season. He looks that good.
From fullback, Ireland had another fierce attacker in the form of Newtownstewart’s Jacob Stockdale. He regularly joined the line as a third centre as he tore into the opposition defence and was at the centre of most of Ireland’s attack play. Positionally he was superb in defence and gave Ireland a huge boot for their exit strategies. He was given little ball to shine in the final as he spent most of the time scooping up English attacks in Ireland’s 22 but against Argentina we saw him at full flight with ball in his hands. Just the kind of attacking fullback Ireland have been looking to develop in recent seasons.
Like the rest of the Ireland team, McPhillips struggled to get his usual game going in the final, especially given the stunning performance of opposite number Harry Mallinder. But scratch that and look back at his previous form and this man was pivotal to Ireland’s run to the final. His combination of place kicking, kicking out of hand, ball dispersal and option taking was one of the highlights of the championship. The former Newcastle United FC academy player is now part of the Ulster Academy and has all the skills to go on and feature in their senior squad in the coming years.
The front row
The entire starting front row of Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney and Ben Betts impressed throughout. They devoured the Argentine scrum and held their own for large periods against England in the showpiece decider. Porter and McBurney also made regular ground for Ireland in the loose as they acted as extra back row forwards. They were the best unit within the Ireland team and the platform from which the rest of the team could thrive off.