Friday 23 February 2018

Carolan's philosophy beginning to pay off as green shoots emerge for U-20s

Victory over old rivals is breathing new confidence into Ireland's Six Nations campaign

Ireland U20 head coach Nigel Carolan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Ireland U20 head coach Nigel Carolan. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

A win over England at any level is always most welcome and although it came at a considerable cost, the timing of the Ireland U-20s' victory in Newcastle 10 days ago cannot be underestimated.

Following back-to-back defeats to Wales and France, the squad's confidence was understandably dented but there is a renewed sense of belief heading into the final two games against Italy (on Friday in Donnybrook) and Scotland.

Nigel Carolan will have to plan without Jimmy O'Brien (broken leg) and Jack Power (hamstring) for the remainder of the tournament with the latter also set to undergo shoulder surgery, which makes him "touch and go" for June's World Rugby U-20 Championship.

To lose two talented youngsters from what is already a backline shorn of a couple of key players is a major blow but Carolan can at least call upon Jacob Stockdale who had been unavailable up to now due to his commitments with Ulster.

The impressive 26-20 win over England came as a timely reminder to the players that Carolan's philosophy is paying off, while for the coaching staff, they were rewarded for being patient with the majority of the faces who came unstuck in the opening two games.

"Of course, your perception of the player varies and the first time is a big step up," Carolan admitted.

"You see the player in a stretched environment, but it was important for us in the last couple of games to just build cohesion.

"We didn't feel that just making changes for the sake of making changes was going to add value to the squad.

"We kept faith with most of the squad that had played in the first two games to have a crack off England and build on what we had in the first two games. Thankfully it worked.

"I was conscious that when we spoke to the lads that we were going to keep the majority of the squad there. Maybe that was, in some ways, a threat as well. We felt that if it didn't work, we were going to have to make changes and give guys on the edge of the squad a chance.

"But those guys who played in the first two games, unfortunately mistakes proved to be very costly.

"We felt that they deserved a chance to turn things around for themselves. It was pleasing for them.

"I think there's a belief as well in what we're trying to do and how we're trying to play. It paid off. It was very simple," he added.

Meanwhile, Carolan has backed Ultan Dillane to build on his senior international debut when Ireland host Italy on Saturday.

"Ultan has got a lot to learn. I think his cameo the last day, in the 15 minutes, went particularly well for him. It didn't look like it was his first cap, it looked like a guy who had played 30 or 40 caps, he looked that comfortable.

"I hope that his time is coming and that he can reproduce because I think his stock certainly went up on the back of his 15 minutes the last day but again, he's very humble and he knows that he's got a lot to do. If he wasn't starting, I don't think he'll be too disappointed.

"He's starting to mature as a player. I think his detail and his preparation off the field, he knows that that's vital and they're the areas that he's working hard on."

Irish Independent

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