Friday 23 February 2018

Ruddock rings changes for Scotland tie

John Fallon, in Treviso

Irish U-20 coach Mike Ruddock has again made five changes to his side as they bid for their first victory at the World Junior Championship in Italy this evening against Scotland.

Victory over Scotland, who have no points either after playing England and South Africa, should be enough to book a place in the second-tier knockout stages next week.

But Ireland will not have it all their own way against the improving Scots, who gave England more than a few worrying moments on Tuesday.

Three of the Irish changes are in the backs, with Luke Marshall taking over from JJ Hanrahan in the centre, Andrew Boyle replacing Craig Gilroy on the left wing, and Paddy Jackson swapping places with James McKinney again at out-half.

Up front, lock Ian Henderson takes over from Daniel Qualter, while the back-row is reshuffled, with Dominic Gallagher replacing Aaron Conneely at open-side. Eoin McKeon switches to blind with Jordi Murphy at No 8.

Irish captain Niall Annett said they had to put the losses to England and South Africa behind them, especially as victory over Scotland should keep them involved.

With Argentina, who are on four points, unlikely to get anything in their match against New Zealand, the winners between Ireland and Scotland should advance to the battle for places five to eight.

That would represent progress from last year, when Ireland lost all three pool games and ended up with a lower seeding for this year's tournament.

Annett played in Argentina last year and said the most difficult thing is the four-day turnaround between games.

"It is very difficult, having done it last year I know how it feels afterwards. You are putting your body through hell, but it is worth it afterwards if you get a win. And we need to go out against Scotland and get that win and that's the reality," said the Belfast Harlequins clubman.

Ireland defeated Scotland in Inverness in the Six Nations but the Scots showed a big improvement when putting it up to England on Tuesday night.

"We saw the second half of that and Scotland look to be a very good outfit so our work is going to be cut out for us," added Annett.

One of the reasons Scotland have improved since the Six Nations has been the availability of their out-half and captain Duncan Weir, who missed the U-20 games this spring as he was on duty in the Magners League for Glasgow Warriors.

Weir was outstanding as England were forced to dig deep four days ago and curtailing his influence will be key this evening.

"The conditions were terrible for that game in Inverness so hopefully we will be able to give a better account of ourselves here," said Weir, a drop-goal specialist.

But Ireland have their own match-winner in winger Andrew Conway, whose brace of tries against South Africa saw him move to joint second in the all-time try-scorers ranking at the Junior World Championship. He has now scored eight tries, two behind All Black Zac Guildford.

Ireland -- T O'Halloran (Galwegians); A Conway (Blackrock), B Macken (Blackrock), L Marshall (Ballymena), A Boyle (UCD); P Jackson (Dungannon), K Marmion (University of Wales Institute Cardiff); J Tracy (UCD), N Annett (Belfast Harlequins), T Furlong (Clontarf); M Kearney (Clontarf), I Henderson (Queens University); E McKeon (Galwegians) D Gallagher (Dublin University), J Murphy (Lansdowne). Replacements: D Doyle (UCD), C Carey (Ballymena), D Qualter (Buccaneers), S Buckley (Garryowen), P Du Toit (UCD), J McKinney (Queens University), C Gilroy (Dungannon).

Irish Independent

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