Ireland U-20s lag behind in physicality and skill stakes, warns Carolan
Ireland U-20s coach Nigel Carolan believes players at the age-grade are behind their rivals from other nations in terms of both skill development and physicality.
The former Connacht player, who also manages the province's Academy, will name his squad for the U-20 World Cup on Monday after putting his side through their paces against a Munster senior selection at Thomond Park this evening.
Carolan has been involved with various international age-grade teams in recent seasons and says that Irish players are at a disadvantage to their opponents.
And, while players can impress in domestic competitions like schools cups, he says it is important to look abroad for comparisons.
"When I look at what's required for a player it's at international level, rather than provincial schools cup level," he said.
"While it (the schools game) is a competitive model and, for a period of time, it does create that energy around players, I'm not sure that it's the only tool that's required to develop players.
"We're certainly finding that at national U-20 level, players coming out of that system are not always equipped to deal with their equivalent players from the other nations.
"In every aspect - technically, tactically and more importantly physically - we're a little bit behind. Our plan in the Academy programme is to push all the resources downward so that we're able to provide a wraparound service to the 16-year-old with a primary focus on skill and physical development.
"The important thing is that we look outside at our competitors. If we just look at our own players and compare them to each other, we're going to miss the boat.
"We'll be successful, but in a bubble. We must look beyond, and even countries like Italy are moving on and starting to resource players earlier.
"We're finding that, at age grade international sides, we're a little bit behind the eight-ball physically and technically."
Donnacha Ryan will make his return to action for Munster in today's game as the second-row bids to prove his fitness for the senior tour of South Africa. He has not played since last month's defeat to Leinster.
Meanwhile, former Munster centre James Downey has retired. The Dubliner won one Ireland cap, against Canada in 2013.
He played in a Heineken Cup final for Northampton Saints in 2011 and spent two seasons at Munster from 2012-14, before moving to Glasgow Warriors and finishing up at Wasps.