Ruddock calls on his troops to front up against French
DISRUPTED by injury and hindered by the involvement of his players in the Pro12, Mike Ruddock's Ireland U-20 team are looking for some home comforts and the return of key men to help them return to winning ways.
Ireland's record at Dubarry Park is excellent – their win over England three weeks ago was their fourth on the trot in Athlone.
However, the one team who don't seem to have a problem prospering in the midlands is France, who have won three times at the venue and claimed victory there two years ago.
However, Les Bleus have been struggling for form, having squeezed past Italy and lost to Wales and England.
Ireland coach Ruddock welcomes back Ulster prospect Stuart Olding, who starts at full-back. Conor Joyce has also featured in Mark Anscombe's Ulster side in recent weeks and he comes on to the blindside flank.
Those two are the only changes from the side who disappointingly lost 21-20 in Scotland a fortnight ago, with Darragh Leader and Peadar Timmins dropping to the bench.
Ireland got the upper hand on France in last year's Six Nations and then beat them in the Junior World Cup in Cape Town last summer.
Many of the stars of that team have moved on and much pressure will come on the shoulders of scrum-half Luke McGrath, while Lansdowne centre Tom Daly must keep the scoreboard ticking over.
"We have a tough battle on our hands against a strong French team," Ruddock said.
"We need to reproduce the effort we showed against England."
The addition of Olding and Joyce will help and they should have enough quality against a French side low on confidence.
IRELAND (U21s v France)– S Olding (Belfast Harlequins); D Painter (Corinthians), T Daly (Lansdowne), R Scannell (Dolphin), R Scholes (Belfast Harlequins); S Crosbie (Old Belvedere), L McGrath (UCD); P Dooley (Lansdowne), G McGuigan (Newcastle), C Taylor (Malone); G Thornbury (UCD), J Donnan (Ballynahinch); C Joyce (Malone), J van der Flier (UCD), R Murphy (Dolphin). Reps: J Andrew (Ballymena), R Furniss (Worcester), A Boland (Lansdowne), S McCarthy (Munster), P Timmins (UCD), J Creighton (Malone), M Roche (Lansdowne), D Leader (Galwegians).
FRANCE – TBA
Ref – L Pearce (England)
Ireland v France,
Live, RTE2, 7.35
Club team eye Scots scalp
HAVING beaten England at Temple Hill, Ireland's Club XV travel to Ayr tonight full of confidence of beating an experimental Scotland team.
Eleven players keep their places after that victory, with in-form Lansdowne winger Cian Aherne coming on to the right wing, while St Mary's Gavin Dunne replaces Craig Ronaldson at out-half.
UCD captain Risteard Byrne starts at hooker, with experienced campaigner Simon Crawford coming into the second-row.
IRELAND (Club XV v Scoltand) – R Mullane; C Aherne, K Lett, S Morrow, D Fanning; G Dunne, G Hurley (capt); C McMahon, R Byrne, K Griffin; S Crawford, B Reilly; W Ryan, D Kenny, F Cogan. Replacements: P O'Regan, R Sweeney, C Butterworth, B Quill, S Cronin, D Lyons, F Horan.