Friday 15 December 2017

Malone to shuffle deck for U-20s' crunch clash

Pete Malone will name his team at lunchtime today. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Pete Malone will name his team at lunchtime today. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Defeat to Italy in their pool opener was hardly the start Ireland had planned for the U-20 World Cup, and they badly need a win against Scotland tomorrow to give their challenge for honours a real injection of belief.

After last year's record performance in Manchester, when Nigel Carolan's side reached the final, Ireland would have had hopes of hitting similar heights this time, but they now require a win against Scotland to retain any hopes ahead of their final Pool B clash with New Zealand.

The three pool winners plus one best runner-up will make up the semi-finals, and coach Pete Malone will be aiming for all five points tomorrow to boost Ireland's ranking.

But they face a Scotland side that ran in three tries against New Zealand in their opening-round defeat, and the Munster A coach is wary of a side that they only defeated by one point during the Six Nations.

"They are a serious team - they were pretty sharp against New Zealand and we have a big challenge again," said Malone, who took over from Carolan following that Six Nations campaign.

"We did some good stuff in the second half (against Italy) and we'll really learn from where we were pretty average at times in the first half. We need to learn for Scotland."

Malone will name his team at lunchtime today; it is likely to feature a number of changes to the side that started the defeat to the Italians.

Hooker Ronan Kelleher made a real impact off the bench when he replaced the injured Diarmuid Barron, while Alan Tynan's appearance on the wing brought an improvement in the back division. Both players are likely to start.

Despite the 22-21 loss to Italy, Ireland showed glimpses of their class, with centres Gavin Mullin - son of former Ireland international Brendan - and Ciaran Frawley impressing, while Munster youngster Calvin Nash also sparkled with two second-half tries.

Frawley missed a penalty from the 10-metre line that would have clinched the win for his side in the 81st minute, but Malone refused to pin the blame on the Leinster back.

"We're disappointed but there is a lot to learn from that game," he said.

"It was a tough miss but he had just nailed the previous one to get us ahead, that's the way the game goes. He was unlucky, he struck it well, so when you strike it well and it doesn't go over, that's all you can do.

"We have nothing against Ciaran, we left enough chances behind us to win the game. It's a 15-man game, 28-man squad, and coaches and management all have to take responsibility."

Ireland U-20s v Scotland U-20,

Live, eir Sport, tomorrow, 10.0

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