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U-20s buoyed by last year's world heroics – McGrath

Ireland U-20 captain Luke McGrath says that last year's opening-day win over hosts – and eventual champions – South Africa has offered great hope to this season's charges as they begin their Junior World Championship campaign in France next week.

Ireland face another massive test first up when they take on Australia at Vannes in southern Brittany next Wednesday.

But McGrath, one of the few survivors from last season, said Ireland were buoyed by last year's exploits.

"Winning against South Africa last year has given us a lot of self-belief and that will help this time round, given that we are playing three southern hemisphere teams in our pool," said the UCD and Leinster scrum-half.

He said that a series of surprise results last year – Wales became the first team ever to defeat New Zealand in the competition, while Argentina beat France and Australia – had given great encouragement to all teams.

"It just means it's anyone's game now and every team has to believe that," he added.


Coach Mike Ruddock, in charge for a third JWC with Ireland, has drafted in five players – Edward Byrne, Adam Byrne, Thomas Farrell, Dan Leavy and Jack O'Donoghue – who were not involved in the Six Nations for a variety of reasons.

Prop Edward Byrne joins his twin brother Bryan, a hooker, in the squad, but Ballymena hooker John Andrew loses out, despite playing in the Six Nations.

Former Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam has made the cut, having featured in the Six Nations, but centre Chris Farrell, who was involved in South Africa last season, has not recovered in time to make the tour this time round – the Dungannon man suffered a serious knee injury last year.

Ruddock said that their main focus is on the opening game against Australia, with Fiji and New Zealand playing directly afterwards at the same Stade de la Rabine venue.

The Irish squad, who fly out on Saturday, will be based at Vannes for the three pool games.

Meanwhile, TG4 yesterday confirmed that they will broadcast all of the Irish games at the Junior World Championship.

Ireland U-20 squad for JWC – Adam Boland (Lansdowne/Connacht), Edward Byrne (UCD /Leinster), Adam Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Bryan Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Thomas Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster), John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Thomas Farrell (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ryan Furniss (Worcester/Exile), Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster), Darragh Leader (Galwegians/Connacht), Daniel Leavy (UCD /Leinster), Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster), George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons/Exile), Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster), Jack O'Donoghue (UL Bohemian/Munster), David Panther (Corinthians/Connacht), Mark Roche (Lansdowne/Connacht), Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins /Ulster), David Shanahan (Clontarf/Leinster), Darren Sweetnam (UCC/Munster), Christopher Taylor (Malone/Ulster), Gavin Thornbury (UCD/Leinster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Josh Van Der Flier (UCD/Leinster).

Irish Independent