Sunday 17 December 2017

Revamped Ireland chase first success

Des Berry

Ireland Schools will get a third bite at the cherry that is the U-18 Five Nations Festival in west Wales this afternoon.

Coach Terry McMaster's players have already come up short against Wales (24-18) and England (41-17) in their previous encounters.

Despite this, the improvement from game one to two was pronounced. That gave McMaster and his Ulster-dominated coaching staff something tangible to work on. The line-out, the breakdown and the physical commitment were ratcheted up.

The rules of this tournament demand that every squad player starts at least one match.

Therefore, McMaster has made eight changes from the fall to England in his side to face Scotland.

It means Garret O Suilleabhain, Richie McMaster, Harry Doyle, Peter Reilly and Eoin Cross make their first starts in the competition, with Stephen MacAuley, James Rael, Yasin Browne returning from the first match against Wales.

Out-half Cathal Marsh (shoulder) and loose-head Des Merrey (ankle) have been ruled out with injury.

Sligo Grammar prop Gary McConnell has been summoned to the tournament in place of Merrey.

Scotland followed a solid performance in their 29-9 defeat to all-conquering England last Friday with a comprehensive 33-13 win over Italy on Tuesday.

Ireland have given away a world of weight and muscle in the first two matches.

The concession to Scotland will not be as marked. They might be able to find enough space for their backs to work the oracle.

Ireland U-18: R Jones (Castleknock); S MacAuley, G O'Suilleabhain (both Clongowes Wood), P Jackson (Methodist), S Coghlan-Murray (Newbridge); R McMaster (Coleraine AI), H Doyle (Royal, Armagh); N Scannell (PBC Cork, capt), J Rael (Castletroy), P Reilly (Castleknock), Y Browne (CBC Cork), D Qualter (Sligo Grammar), E Cross (Crescent), C Gilsenan (Clongowes Wood), J Conan (St Gerard's).

Irish Independent

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