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IRFU 'hopeful' Ireland U-20s will get Six Nations Grand Slam chance in October

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The Ireland U20 side has started the Six Nations with three impressive wins from three before sport was shut down. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The Ireland U20 side has started the Six Nations with three impressive wins from three before sport was shut down. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

The Ireland U20 side has started the Six Nations with three impressive wins from three before sport was shut down. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The IRFU remain hopeful that this season's U-20 and Women's Six Nations will be completed later this year in conjunction with the men's games.

Fears had grown that both tournaments could be scrapped, and while there have been positive sounds in terms of the men's games being rescheduled in October, updates on the U-20 and women's games have been few and far between.

However, the IRFU are eager for both tournaments to be completed, if at all possible.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland are expected to play Italy at the Aviva Stadium on October 24 and France in Paris on October 31.

It is hoped that as soon as the aforementioned fixtures are confirmed, the U-20 and Women's games can also be re-fixed.

The Ireland U-20s were flying high in the Six Nations, having won three out of three games, which had put them well on course for the country's second successive Grand Slam at that level.

Noel McNamara's charges were due to face Italy at home ahead of a tricky trip to France the following week, before Covid-19 brought their hugely impressive run to a grinding halt.

This summer's U-20 World Cup, which was due to be held in northern Italy, has already been cancelled – thus denying some of the country's brightest talents a chance to impress on the world stage.

Many of this year's squad are set to enter Academy programmes within the four provinces, with some players already being tipped to make a breakthrough into PRO14 squads.

If that was to happen, it would potentially make it tricky for certain players to be released to the Ireland U-20s in late October, at a time when the provinces will be shorn of their heavy hitters, who will be with Farrell's Ireland.

That said, the IRFU recognise the importance of the U-20 age-grade, and are eager to ensure that this year's crop get a chance to write themselves into the history books.

Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster are due to welcome back their Academy players on Monday, which is seen as another major step forward in the return to rugby.

"The priority at the moment is to get the Academies back up and running," Ireland U-20 head coach and Leinster Academy manager Noel McNamara said.

"The IRFU have released a roadmap for the clubs. It's hoped that we can get back into club rugby in September, so hopefully (there is) an opportunity for a lot of those guys through the club game, but also through the interprovincial 'A' games, and also potentially some PRO14 rugby as well, which would be fantastic.

"We are still hopeful that those (Six Nations) games will be played. There are tentative talks about that potentially happening towards the end of October.

"Once that is confirmed, it will be great to get the group back together. They had a lot of momentum.

"We worked very hard to get that momentum early on in the year and we will work very hard to get it back again.

"It would definitely be very exciting for that group of players to come back and get an opportunity to play together again and get an opportunity to represent Ireland at that level.

"That is still probably a little bit off in the distance. If we have learned anything in the past number of months, it is the importance of focusing on the here and now, and dealing with the situation that we have in front of us.

"The two phrases that I have heard used over the last number of months is the ability to be adaptable and the ability to be agile.

"I think those are two things we will certainly look to do if and when we get an opportunity to get back together with those 20s."

The Ireland Women also have two Six Nations games against Italy and France still to be played.

Adam Griggs' side were sitting in third place of the table with two wins from three before the pandemic.

Ireland desperately need the games ahead of their 2021 World Cup qualifying tournament, which has been postponed from its planned September date.

Ireland are awaiting confirmation of a new date, as they hope that, like their U-20 counterparts, their postponed Six Nations games can be played in late October.

Online Editors