Tuesday 16 January 2018

Ruddock insists Ireland will not blow opportunity

John Fallon in Vannes

Ireland's try-scoring hero against Australia, Rory Scholes, is hopeful that they can chalk up a second win when they take on Fiji in the U-20 Junior World Championship in France tomorrow.

The Belfast Harlequins winger, who scored Ireland's only touchdown in their superb 19-15 opening win over the Wallabies in Vannes on Wednesday night, believes they can build on that success.

"Mike Ruddock kept harping on to us about how important it would be to win the opening game. Ireland did that last year against South Africa and went on to finish fifth, our highest place ever in the tournament," said Scholes.

"We are looking to better that. We went out against Australia looking for the win, because we thought we were good enough, so to do it the way we did was great. But we now need to back that up against Fiji. There is very little time between games, so we need to make sure we produce another big performance."

Ruddock, as expected, has made a host of changes as he rotates his squad for a tournament that sees them play five matches in 19 days.

Blindside flanker Conor Joyce, who will captain the side, is the only member of the pack to be retained, with twin brothers Edward and Bryan Byrne, coming into the front-row. Sean McCarthy, a nephew of former Irish star Mick Galwey, starts in the second-row. Chris Taylor and Gavin Thornbury both make a welcome return from injury.

There are four changes in the backs, with David Shanahan taking over from skipper Luke McGrath at scrum-half and the Connacht pair of Darragh Leader and Mark Roche come in at full-back and outside centre.

Former Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam will start on the right wing in what will be his fifth appearance for the Irish U-20s after taking up a contract with Munster last year.

Ruddock said that they would be taking nothing for granted against a Fiji side who were hammered 59-6 by New Zealand. The wheels came off when they had two players red-carded and three more sin-binned.

"There is a danger we might pat ourselves on the back for beating Australia and perhaps relax a bit against Fiji, but that is not the way it is going to be," added Ruddock. "They are going to be very tough opponents, very strong and very quick and they have improved a lot.

"I saw Wales two years ago get hammered by Fiji. We beat South Africa in our opening game last year, but then lost to England and blew our opportunity. We won't get ahead of ourselves. We have done our homework."

An Irish victory tomorrow will likely set up a clash with New Zealand next Thursday with a semi-final place up grabs. The Baby Blacks play Australia in the second game at Stade de la Rabine tomorrow evening – but Ruddock does not want them to take anything for granted against a Fiji side who arrived a week early in France for an all-expenses paid camp hosted by Vern Cotter's Clermont Auvergne.

Ireland – D Leader (Connacht); D Sweetnam (Munster), M Roche (Connacht), T Daly (Leinster), R Scholes (Ulster); S Crosbie (Leinster), D Shanahan (Leinster); E Byrne (Leinster), B Byrne (Leinster), C Taylor (Ulster); G Thornbury (Leinster), S McCarthy (Munster); C Joyce (Ulster), D Leavy (Leinster), J O'Donoghue (Munster). Reps: G McGuigan (Exile), P Dooley (Leinster), R Furniss (Exiles), J Donnan (Ulster), J van der Flier (Leinster), L McGrath (Leinster), R Scannell (Munster), D Panter (Connacht).

Ireland v Fiji,

Live, TG4 , 5.45

Irish Independent

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