Wednesday 24 January 2018

Uphill task for Ireland U20s in their tilt at history against Baby Blacks

Sean McNulty and Jack Dwan, 19, Ireland, celebrate after the game. World Rugby U20 Championship, Pool C, Ireland v Argentina, Parma, Italy
Sean McNulty and Jack Dwan, 19, Ireland, celebrate after the game. World Rugby U20 Championship, Pool C, Ireland v Argentina, Parma, Italy
Ireland U-20 coach Nigel Carolan

John Fallon

Scotland coach Sean Lineen, whose side lost to tonight's pool decider combatants by 58 points and four points, probably summed up Ireland's chances best of a first ever win over New Zealand in Viadana.

The former Glasgow coach saw his side hammered 68-10 by the Baby Blacks and then ran Ireland close before Nigel Carolan's men emerged with a 24-20 win in the World Rugby U-20 Championship.

"I think Ireland will have to be at their best I would say and New Zealand may have to have an off-day. But you never know with the Irish, they are pretty clever, a clever bunch. But Ireland will need to keep the ball or else they will be punished," said the New Zealand native.

Ireland have come out the right side of two tight results to give themselves a chance of qualifying and in the process become the first Irish men's side to defeat New Zealand.

And scrum coach John Fogarty said it wouldn't be for the want of trying, as they bid to finally put the Kiwi hoodoo to bed. In this competition alone, Ireland have played 13 teams and beaten them all - except New Zealand. Four defeats the record reads, and 15 points is the nearest they have got to them. There were 55 points between them when they first met in 2008.

It's sobering but Fogarty said this young bunch of wouldn't be getting bogged down in that.

"They know what's involved and what's at stake, but they are looking at it as just another game. We have had a really good look at what it is we have been putting on the field and we are so aware of where we can improve.

"I think that is the key for us, to put something on the field, a more complete performance. It is going to give us the opportunity and you put an Irish team in the fight in the last ten or 15 minutes and they will, more often than not, come out on the right side.

"That's what we are looking for, a good start, a good performance across the board and for us to be there or thereabouts. The fear that I might have had as an older player is something these lads don't have.

"They want to write their own history and it is something they have mentioned and I have no doubt in my mind that as a group that they are going to go out there and they are going to go after that," said the former Munster, Connacht and Leinster hooker.

The Queen's University pair of Jack Owens, who will make his debut at this level, and Jacob Stockdale have been drafted into the side on the wings, with openside flanker Rory Moloney returning.

A planned fourth change had to be reversed yesterday when Zack McCall failed a fitness test on his shoulder, so Sean McNulty continues at hooker. Ballymena's Adam McBurney, drafted in when lock Jack Dwan's tour ended at the weekend, is selected on the bench and the 18-year-old could make his debut.

They wrapped up their preparations in the rain in Brescia yesterday, a massive change from the scorching weather for the two opening games, and it should be a lot fresher for the 8.30pm local-time kick-off this evening.

Ireland - B Dardis; J Owens, G Ringrose, S Arnold, J Stockdale; J Carbery, N McCarthy (capt); A Porter, S McNulty, O Heffernan; D O'Connor, A Thompson; J Murphy, R Moloney, L Dow. Replacements: A McBurney, L O'Connor, C O'Donnell, C Romaine, S McVeigh, C Rock, T Quinlan, F Cleary.

Irish Independent

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