Ruddock's side facing onerous task against Springboks
MIKE RUDDOCK's Ireland U-20 side kick off their Junior World Cup assault in the most difficult of circumstances in Stellenbosch today.
The university town near Cape Town will be an imposing venue for the young Irish side who take on hosts South Africa on their own patch. Ireland's record in this competition has not been good in recent years and Ruddock's side face an uphill battle to qualify for the top four.
Their cause hasn't been helped by the IRFU's player advisory board's decision to keep captain Paddy Jackson out of the action.
Munster's rising star JJ Hanrahan moves in from the centre to cover Jackson's absence at out-half, while Dolphin hooker Niall Scannell takes over leadership duties.
Hanrahan is one of five players who played in last year's tournament, with Connacht's Kieran Marmion holding Leinster and UCD's Luke Marshall off for the scrum-half jersey. The all-Leinster back-row of Jordan Coghlan, Jack Conan and Conor Gilsenan will be key to their efforts.
The South Africans bring Super Rugby experience in captain Paul Jordaan (Sharks), locks Pieter Steph du Toit (Sharks), Ruan Botha and Paul Willemse (MTN Lions) and prop Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) to open with a victory and it is hard to see this Irish team stopping them.
Verdict: South Africa
Junior World Cup, Pool B: South Africa v Ireland, Stellenbosch, 5.45. TG4, Sky Sports 2.
IRELAND -- P Nelson (Dungannon/Ulster); B Daly (UCD/Leinster), F Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster), C Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), S Coghlan Murray (UCD/Leinster); JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), K Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht); D Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster), N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster, capt), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster); T Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster), I Henderson (QUB/Ulster); J Coghlan (UCD/Leinster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), C Gilsenan (UCD/Mullingar/Leinster).
Replacements: J Rael (Garryowen/Munster), P Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), A O'Connor (UCD/Leinster), A Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht), L Marshall (UCD/Leinster), J Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht), M Sherlock (Clontarf/Leinster).