Wednesday 22 November 2017

Carolan backs new faces to offset loss of 'five key guys'

Ireland U20 head coach Nigel Carolan. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ireland U20 head coach Nigel Carolan. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

While the challenge that awaits Ireland at next month's World Rugby U-20 Championship is somewhat daunting, they will face it on the back of plenty of momentum from their Six Nations campaign.

Defeats to Wales and France in their opening two games in February punctured the expectation but Nigel Carolan's side bounced back in impressive fashion by winning their following three matches.

The return of Munster's supremely talented Academy out-half Bill Johnston, who missed the Six Nations with a dislocated shoulder, is a major boost, but there are significant casualties this time around.

Conan O'Donnell (foot) and Peter Claffey (concussion) are major absentees from the pack, while Munster-bound centre Sam Arnold misses out, as does Jack Power (both hamstring) and Shane Fenton.

Carolan has included five fresh faces in his 28-man squad and is excited about what they can contribute.

"Not having five key guys available, guys who have had international experience, it certainly challenges your strength in depth," he conceded.

"The five new caps who have been included have other qualities which we're really excited about.


"It shows the strength in depth that is there and there were some difficult conversations on Friday with some guys who haven't made the squad. We finished the Six Nations on a bit of a high, I think we grew as a team."

As well as Johnston, Vakh Abdaladze, Vincent O'Brien, David Aspil and Evan Mintern are all uncapped at this level but despite their relative experience, they will be expected to hit the ground running when Ireland begin their campaign against Wales in Manchester on June 7.

Having lost 35-24 at home to the Welsh in the Six Nations, Ireland desperately need to start with a positive result before they take on New Zealand and a Georgian side who beat Ireland at U-18 level last year.

"We've worked very hard and the players have worked physically in their provinces," Carolan said.

"It's a tough environment and it's one where you have to learn pretty quick. While we played an ambitious type of game, mistakes proved to be very costly. Any time we made mistakes, the consequences were quite high.

"We have to figure out the risk versus reward and how we can minimise the risk but still play a high tempo game."

Ireland squad (for World Rugby U-20 Championship) - Forwards: A Porter, J Bollard, V Abdaladze*, A McBurney, V O'Brien*, C Kenny, B Betts, C Gallagher, J Ryan (capt), S O'Connor, E Mintern*, G Jones, W Connors, M Deegan, K Brown, D Aspil*. Backs: S Kerins, N Saunders, B Johnston*, J McPhillips, C O'Brien, S Daly, J O'Brien, P Kiernan, J Stockdale, T Kennedy, H Keenan, M Byrne.

*Denotes uncapped player at U-20 level

Irish Independent

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