Saturday 20 January 2018

Ruddock eyes French scalp to sign off on high

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

IT won't have been lost on Ireland that on the day they are playing France in the fifth-place play-off, the team they shocked in the opening round, South Africa, take on New Zealand in the final of the Junior World Cup.

Still, it has been an excellent tournament for Ireland. That win over South Africa was their first at this grade, while beating Grand Slam champions England was another scalp of note.

Ireland have already secured their best finish in this competition -- their previous best was eighth -- but they would love to topple the French, who they beat in the Six Nations for the first time this year.

Manager Mike Ruddock has named an unchanged team, which will be guided once again by JJ Hanrahan at No 10.

Hanrahan's excellent form has earned him a nomination for the Junior Player of the Year award, along with Baby Boks Shaun Adendorff and Jan Serfontein. He might not have started at out-half but for the decision to leave captain Paddy Jackson at home after he signed a full contract with Ulster.

Ruddock expects that the hectic schedule will take its toll on both teams. "At this stage it's survival of the fittest. Whoever rocks up with the freshest legs is going to win," said the Welshman.

"We are expecting another tough game, particularly as we defeated them in the Six Nations -- they will be gunning for revenge.

"We have done our homework and hopefully our legs will carry us to another important victory."

The game will be played as a curtain-raiser to the final, for which a crowd of up to 30,000 is expected.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland -- P Nelson (Ulster); B Daly (Leinster), S Olding (Ulster), C Farrell (Ulster), F Horan (Leinster); JJ Hanrahan (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht); D Merrey (Leinster), N Scannell (Munster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster); A O'Connor (Leinster), T Beirne (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), J Coghlan (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster). Reps: J Rael (Munster), P Reilly (Leinster), J Cawley (Leinster), S Buckley (Munster), A Conneely (Connacht), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carty (Connacht), C Finn (Connacht).

Ireland v France

Live, TG4, 1.15

Irish Independent

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