Thursday 20 June 2019

U-20s facing Italy test after Wallaby mauling

Ireland U-20 17 Australia U-20 45

Angus Kernohan of Ireland gets tackled by the Australian team. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile
Angus Kernohan of Ireland gets tackled by the Australian team. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland must pick themselves up and pat themselves down after a tough day at the office against the Junior Wallabies on Saturday. Italy are approaching fast.

Putting defeat in Santa Fé behind them ahead of the Italy game on Wednesday morning (10.30) will not be straightforward. Firstly, there is the business of keeping morale up when you can see the body bags being delivered as a tough schedule takes its toll on the squad.

Secondly, there is the challenge of dealing with an Italy side who may not be world-beaters, but managed to shunt Scotland into last place in this season's Six Nations and ran England to a point on Saturday night. They will have a massive scrum.

Ireland need fit bodies, and a game-plan that might bring a bonus-point win with a significant investment in their points difference column to make the semi-finals. The brutal nature of this tournament has been laid bare.

Ireland were minus four nailed-on starters when the squad was picked, a process that was delayed until the last possible minute given the rate at which players were dropping out.

By the time Ireland had completed a remarkable job last week on England, they had lost another two backs in full-back Iwan Hughes and centre Seán French and No 8 Azur Allison was carted off with concussion. It remains to be seen if he features again.

Ryan Baird of Ireland. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile
Ryan Baird of Ireland. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile

On Saturday, Ronan Watters, who got a start in Allison's absence, was gone with concussion inside the first quarter. By the end, Ireland had two hookers and two scrum-halves on the field. One of the latter was replacing Craig Casey who had struggled with what appeared to be a quad injury. Ireland had only three props on duty because tighthead Charlie Ward, who ruptured his hamstring at Christmas, tweaked it in a warm-up on Friday.

Then, with Ryan Baird's red card added into the mix, after only 21 minutes following a high tackle on Will Harrison, a difficult job became all the harder. Ireland showed plenty of mettle but everything - schedule included - conspired against them.

Casey's first-half try had got his team back in the game after the Australians had raced into a 10-0 lead.

Ironically, the try that sunk 14-man Ireland, after they had done brilliantly to lead 17-10 on 56 minutes, had a final pass that was forward, but the TMO wasn't asked to intervene. And Ireland collapsed.

Craig Casey of Ireland on his way to scoring a try. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile
Craig Casey of Ireland on his way to scoring a try. Photo: Florencia Tan Jun/Sportsfile

They will be angry with themselves for the way the junior Wallabies rattled in another four touchdowns in the last quarter, but there were extenuating circumstances.

We wonder if the review of this competition might wake World Rugby up to the realities of life. This is brutally physical rugby played in a crazily compressed time schedule - Ireland have Italy on Wednesday, their third game in eight days - by too few men. The sane thing to do, if it is to continue, is extend both the schedule and the size of the squads. Or else scrap it.

The bad news is that if they can't scale that peak then they still will go to Rosario for the rearranging of deckchairs that is the squabble for minor placings, and jockeying for position at next year's event.

You'd wonder will that one be carried out in more benign circumstances.

Ireland - R Russell (M Healy 56); A Kernohan, L Turner, S Moore (C Foley 61), J Wren (D Adamson 71); J Flannery, C Casey (C Reilly 61); J Wycherley (M Milne 56), D Tiernan-Martin (J McKee 59), T Clarkson, C Ryan (capt), R Baird (RC 20), D McCann, J Hodnett (C Murray 61), R Watters (C Booth 17)

Australia - I Lucas; S Tui, S Tupou (K Oates 77), N Lolesio (J Walton 77), M Nawaqanitawase; W Harrison, M McDonald; A Bell, L Lonergan (R van Nek 77), J Nasser, M Wood (N Frost 55), T Hosea (E Ha'angana 72), H Wilson, F McReight (C Tizzano 77), W Harris (P Tafa 71).

Ref - C Ridley (England)

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