Friday 23 August 2019

Visit from Ireland chiefs gives rising stars major boost

Ireland 17 Scotland 9

Stephen Fitzgerald is tackled by Scotland’s Rory Hutchinson during the World U-20 Championship play-off match in Viadana.
Stephen Fitzgerald is tackled by Scotland’s Rory Hutchinson during the World U-20 Championship play-off match in Viadana.
Ireland’s Andrew Porter is taken off the pitch on a stretcher. Happily, Porter’s injury wasn’t serious and he rejoined the squad to watch the final
Charlie Rock clears the ball under pressure
Joey Carbery, Ireland, kicks a first half penalty
Stephen Fitzgerald touches down to score a try for Ireland

John Fallon

U-20 coach Nigel Carolan said it was a huge boost to his players that Joe Schmidt and other members of the Irish management travelled to Italy to see their final game.

Schmidt and Les Kiss addressed the players on the morning of the game in the team hotel in Brescia and Simon Easterby was also in attendance as Ireland wrapped up their World Rugby U-20 Championship at Stadio Zaffanella with their third win in five games.

In the process, Ireland secured seventh place and a possible better seeding for next year's tournament, which will be held in Manchester.

But Carolan said the key thing was to finish with a win after disappointing losses to New Zealand and Wales, and he said the arrival of Schmidt and the other members of the Irish management at the team hotel was a big boost.

"The fact that the Irish management came here to watch them, to speak to them on the morning of the match, shows how close they are to the next level and how important Irish rugby sees this group of players.

"There are players in this group who will, without doubt, be playing at the next level before too long and it is great that the Irish management show that level of interest in them," said Carolan.

Shannon's Stephen Fitzgerald got both tries as Ireland held off a good challenge throughout from a Scottish side who defeated them in the Six Nations, but who they beat in the pool stages.

"We knew there was a lot of potential in this group, but we knew they needed to perform to finish the tournament with a win.

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"Overall, we were frustrated by the inconsistencies, but it was important to finish with a win.

"It is a very tough tournament, but it is a super, super opportunity for these guys to show what they are about.

"Hopefully they have learned a lot about themselves and maybe areas they can make some improvement and work hard and hopefully achieve what they can in the future," added Carolan.

A chip from Joey Carbery created the opening try, which Fitzgerald finished after it bounced kindly for him.

Ireland lost loose-head prop Andrew Porter and out-half Joey Carbery to injury by half-time, with Ireland leading 7-6 at the break.

Carbery added the difficult conversion from the left touchline to Fitzgerald's opening try, but Scotland kept in touch with a couple of penalties from Blair Kinghorn.

Garry Ringrose, with another promising performance, took over the kicking duties after Carbery went off injured, and he landed a penalty after 50 minutes to extend the lead.

Oisin Heffernan became only the third Irish player, after Dominic Ryan and Iain Henderson, to win 20 U-20 caps when he was introduced, a notable achievement for the tight-head from Clifden in Co Galway, who featured in all Six Nations and World Championship games this year and last season.


Scotland refused to throw in the towel, but while they enjoyed sustained bouts of pressure, they were unable to break down a resolute Irish defence who kept their line intact despite all the pressure.

George Horne, brother of Scottish international Peter, reduced the margin to a point 10 minutes from the end with a good penalty from 40 metres.

But then Ireland, whose handling was far better than the four previous games, drove off a lineout and over half-a-dozen phases later, Fergal Cleary created the opening with an inside pass which saw Fitzgerald score under the posts.

Ringrose added the easy conversion to put more than one score between them and Ireland held on for a deserved win to end the tournament on a high.

New Zealand, who beat Ireland 25-3 in the pool, captured the title for the first time since 2011, when they defeated England 21-16 in the final at Cremona on Saturday night.

Ireland - B Dardis; S Fitzgerald, G Ringrose, S Arnold (C Gaffney 66), J Stcokdale; J Carbery (F Cleary 39), C Rock (J Cullen 69); A Porter (L O'Connor 40), Z McCall (A McBurney 42), C O'Donnell (O Heffernan 60); D O'Connor, A Thompson (C Romaine 66); J Murphy, R Moloney (N Timoney 42), L Dow.

Scotland - B Kinghorn; R Nairn, A Coombes, P Kelly, R Galloway; R Hutchinson, B Vellacott (G Horne 57); M McCallum (D Elkington 50), S James (R Graham 64), Z Fagerson (J Owlett 75); S Cummings (L Wynne 60), A Miller (R Knott 68); N Irvine-Hess, J Ritchie, M Bradbury.

Ref- S Kubo (Japan).

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