Top brass visit raises stakes for U-20s ahead of Scots clash
Battling it out with Scotland for seventh place was not what the Irish envisaged for the final day of the World Rugby U-20 Championship, but the arrival last night of Joe Schmidt and some of his management has greatly upped the stakes for Nigel Carolan's young men.
Schmidt, along with Les Kiss and Simon Easterby, are stopping over in Italy to cast an eye on the next generation as they battle it out with the Scots in Viadana.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora, who has been based with the U-20s in Brescia for the past few weeks in addition to attending other events around Europe, said it was important that Ireland wrap up this tournament on a high note.
Their hopes of winning it disappeared when they were beaten 25-3 in a pool game by New Zealand before a disastrous start saw them lose out on finishing fifth when they lost 22-12 to Wales on Monday.
"I think it is really important they finish well, that they have a good performance is the most important thing," said Nucifora.
"There has been an inconsistency of performance from the team, I'm sure they will be the first to recognise that. Some good performances and then the performances drop off.
"We obviously look at the team performance, we also look very carefully at the individual performances, how they match up compared to some of the other better players in the tournament, so there are a lot of positives to be taken out of it individually for some of the boys and it also gives us a better feeling for where they actually sit in their overall development."
Coach Carolan has rotated his side again and made five changes for today's (12 noon Irish time) third meeting with Scotland this year.
They lost 17-10 to Scotland in the Six Nations but maintained their perfect record against them in the World Championship when winning against them for the fourth time 24-20 in the pool stages.
Full-back Billy Dardis returns in the only change to the backline, with Zack McCall taking over from the injured Sean McNulty at hooker and Conan O'Donnell starts at tighthead.
Rory Moloney and Lorcan Dow return to the back-row.
Ireland u-20 (v Scotland) - B Dardis (UCD); S Fitzgerald (Shannon), G Ringrose (UCD), S Arnold (Ballynahinch), J Stockdale (Queen's University); J Carbery (UCD), C Rock (Old Belvedere); A Porter (UCD), Z McCall (Queen's University), C O'Donnell (Sligo/NUIG); D O'Connor (S Mary's College), A Thompson (Queen's University); J Murphy (UCD), R Moloney (Buccaneers), L Dow (Queen's University). Reps: A McBurney (Ballymena), L O'Connor (Cork Con), O Heffernan (Terenure), C Romaine (Buccaneers), N Timoney (St Mary's College), J Cullen (Shannon), F Cleary (Lansdowne), C Gaffney (Galwegians)