Sunday 22 April 2018

Fogarty eager for exciting U-20s to thrive under pressure

Castleknock’s Cian Egenton is tackled by Luke Grady of Terenure College during the Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook
Castleknock’s Cian Egenton is tackled by Luke Grady of Terenure College during the Leinster Schools Junior Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The brand of rugby that the Ireland U-20s is playing is arguably the best in the country at the moment but on Friday, they will face their biggest test to date when the reigning World champions arrive in the capital.

England have plenty of exciting talents of their own, particularly in the likes of Saracens winger Nick Tompkins and Harlequins centre Joe Marchant but under the tutelage of Nigel Carolan, Ireland have been seriously impressive in their opening two Six Nations wins.

This Friday's mouthwatering encounter will take place on Donnybrook's new 4G surface and anyone who has seen the schools rugby games played on the pitch this year will testify to the speed at which the majority of games have been played.

In his first campaign in charge of the U-20s, Carolan has brought with him a pair of experienced assistant coaches in Colin McEntee and John Fogarty.


The latter, a former European Cup-winning hooker with Leinster, is relishing coming up against a talented, young English side but he is only too aware that the quality within the Irish back-line is as exciting as it has been in years.

"They're great. They're good lads and are nice and confident at the moment," Fogarty said.

"They're not ahead of their station - they're very grounded lads and have a good work ethic.

"That goes right through the squad but the back-line has a lot of confidence to them that can be seen in the games. They take their chances or make that crucial pass that maybe a lesser confident player might not.

"Technically, they're quite good. They've all been exposed to a good level of rugby, be it in the British and Irish Cup or the AIL. They're a smart group of players without being cocky. They're confident in their own ability," he added.

A large crowd is expected in Donnybrook on Friday but Fogarty isn't anticipating that the artificial surface will only suit Ireland's quicksilver back-line which is lead by their imperious out-half Ross Byrne.

England carry plenty of threats right throughout their side and the assistant coach knows that Ireland's defence can ill afford to give them any time or space on the ball.

But nevertheless he knows that all the ingredients are in place for a cracking encounter.

"It's exciting. The pitch has traditionally been the issue in Athlone," he admitted.

"I live in Kildare so having to travel down there when the pitch is muddy, it takes from the game a little bit at times.

"It will be interesting to see how we play and how the lads get on, on the 4G pitch. It's a quicker track obviously but that will probably suit both teams to be honest."

Ireland sit top of the Six Nations with two wins from two and despite the fact that England lost their opening game to Wales, he believes they have improved since then.

Carolan has given his players licence to play an expansive type of game and Fogarty, who also works with the Leinster academy, believes that the players are thriving from it.

The likes of Garry Ringrose, Billy Dardis, Sam Arnold and Stephen Fitzgerald have already shown their blistering capabilities but Fogarty is expecting a much tougher test in two days.

"The good thing is that Nigel is allowing the players to explore and is giving them the opportunity to make decisions during the week to build a play book," he said.

"During the game then, they feel like they've developed that so they play it out.

"It went well in the first two games but this is a massive test and there will be that bit more pressure. We'll see how they deal with that pressure."

Irish Independent

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