Saturday 18 November 2017

Johnston can help keep U-20s' Slam dream alive

Ireland U-20s’ Bill Johnston. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland U-20s’ Bill Johnston. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If you thought that the unpredictable nature of French rugby concerned just the senior team, then think again as the U-20s' start to the Six Nations illustrates that it is an epidemic right throughout the age-grades.

While Joe Schmidt will be wondering which French team will turn up at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening, Nigel Carolan will have similar concerns ahead of his side's clash this evening (8.00pm).

Ireland are still on course for a Grand Slam having beaten both Scotland and Italy by a single point, but there is a realisation within the squad that they haven't yet played to their full potential.

France on the other hand were atrocious in their thumping defeat (59-17) to England but after making several changes, they bounced back impressively at home to Scotland. Sound familiar?

Seventeen-year old Romain Ntamack, son of France legend Émile, is one to watch at out-half and his battle with the fit-again Bill Johnston will be fascinating.

Returning to Donnybrook's 4G surface will suit Ireland and if the pack can provide the platform, Johnston has the ability the get those outside him moving.

The back three of Rob Lyttle, Jordan Larmour and Calvin Nash have explosive potential while hugely talented No 8 Caelan Dorris will bring some much-needed physicality up front.

Without a couple of key players, this will be a big test for Ireland but if they can put France under pressure early on, they may have just enough to keep their Grand Slam dream alive.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland U20 v France U20, Live, RTE2, 8.00pm

Irish Independent

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