Ruddock talks up wave of Irish talent as next generation look to make Six Nations impact
THE next generation of up-and-coming Irish rugby players will look to make their mark when Mike Ruddock's U-20 side begin their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Athlone tonight.
Ruddock believes he has another talented squad on his hands this time around, but he acknowledged that such is the health of the provinces that they face a significant challenge to break into their club set-ups.
"I'll put it this way – there's a lot of talent coming through in Irish rugby and some guys are very unlucky not to have had greater exposure," Ruddock said ahead of the visit of the Scots to Dubarry Park tonight.
"If you take the team I had two years ago, the back row then was Conor Gilsenan, Jordan Coghlan and Jack Cronin. We beat South Africa, England and France in that tournament and they were outstanding in the back-row.
"I've been very lucky that there's such a good talent pool available because they certainly would have been players I think could have kicked on pretty quickly after that World Cup. That shows you the strength in Irish rugby at the moment."
Ireland are out to better the third-place finish they have managed in each of the last two Six Nations tournaments.
Former Wales Grand Slam-winning coach Ruddock (right) has ensured a link remains from last year's team.
Prop Peter Dooley and flanker Peadar Timmins played in this tournament 12 months ago, while wing Adam Byrne and captain Dan Leavy played in the World Cup.
For tonight's clash, Leinster dominate the match-day squad with 10 starting against Scotland and another two on the bench. Of the 10 starters, seven are affiliated with UCD.
Among those is skipper Leavy, who is one of those expected to force his way into the already-congested Leinster back row in the coming seasons having featured in pre-season games against Ulster and Northampton with the senior team.
And he has urged his side to deliver on their potential in the coming weeks.
"I played with most of these guys on the way up and they are all really talented," said the openside flanker. "It's a real test of ourselves as to how we get on in this campaign."
Scotland won this fixture last year in Netherdale on a 21-20 scoreline and include Ben Chalmers, son of former Lion Craig, at out-half.
"Mike Ruddock has been there a while as head coach and he's done a great job," said highly-rated Scotland coach Sean Lineen.
"The Irish youth system is strong, through their clubs and schools, and they're pretty hardy lads, tough and aggressive."
IRELAND – D Busby (Ulster); A Byrne (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster), P Robb (Leinster), I Fitzpatrick (Leinster); R Byrne (Leinster), N McCarthy (Leinster); P Dooley (Leinster), M Abbott (Munster), R Burke (Munster); S O'Brien (Connacht), R Molony (Leinster); P Timmins (Leinster), D Leavy (capt, Leinster), J O'Donoghue (Munster). Reps: S Delahunt (Leinster), J Walshe (Connacht), O Heffernan (Leinster), J Joyce (Exiles), R Moloney (Connacht), J Cullen (Munster), C McKeon (Leinster), D Goggin (Munster).
Scotland – G Lowe (Glasgow Warriors), J Farndale (Edinburgh), Damien Hoyland (Melrose), Neil Herron (Scotland 7s), Sam Pecqueur (Edinburgh Accies); B Chalmers (Melrose), M McAndrew (Clermont Auvergne); J Malcolm (Ayr), S James (Wasps), D Rae (Glasgow Warriors); A Cramond (Aberdeen Grammar), G Young (Newcastle Falcons); M Bradbury (Edinburgh), T Spinks (London Scottish), B Richardson (London Scottish) Reps: R Graham (Hawick), P Cringle (Edinburgh), J Cosgrove (Worcester Warriors), L Carmicheal (Melrose), N Irvine-Hess (Edinburgh), B Vellacott (Worcester Warriors), B Cooper (Boroughmuir), R Young (Edinburgh Accies).
IRELAND U-20 V SCOTLAND U-20,
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