Thursday 13 December 2018

Paul Connell: 'You've got to focus on the little fixes that led you to conceding in games like we did'

Ireland players, from left, Jack Aungier, Tommy O'Brien and Harry Byrne
Ireland players, from left, Jack Aungier, Tommy O'Brien and Harry Byrne
Paul O'Connell Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Scotland stunned a much-fancied England a fortnight ago to highlight how difficult the task is for the Ireland U-20s when they welcome their Celtic cousins to Donnybrook this evening.

Two defeats in three games was not part of either team's plan but as it is, Ireland and Scotland come into the clash having won just one game each.

As attentions slowly begin to turn towards June's Junior World Cup, Noel McNamara has handed several players an opportunity to stake their claim.

The head coach will be looking for a big performance from his out-half Harry Byrne, who has shown glimpses of his undoubted potential without really setting the competition alight.

Inconsistency has been Ireland's biggest problem throughout the campaign.

They have been guilty on several occasions of falling asleep at the wheel, for which they have been duly punished.

"I think we've probably had lapses in concentration and lapses defensively," forwards coach Paul O'Connell admitted. "I think we play really good rugby and we're capable of scoring tries, we just have to stop being so capable of conceding them as well.

"We've conceded on maul a few times which is pretty disappointing and we've failed to score off a maul as well which is disappointing.

"I don't think focusing on putting in an 80-minute performance makes you any better, you've got to focus on the little fixes that led you to conceding in games like we did."

For all of their defensive errors, Ireland have shown plenty in attack.

Tommy O'Brien has often been starved of possession but every time the skipper gets ball in hand, he looks like making something happen.

Jack O'Sullivan has been a powerful presence from No 8, as has lock Jack Dunne. With several changes to the pack, both players will be expected to help steady the ship.

A tough test awaits but given what is to come in England next weekend, and later in the World Cup, they don't come any easier from here on in.

Securing a win would help restore Ireland's confidence for the long road ahead.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland U-20s - M Silvester; A Kernohan, T O'Brien (capt), A Curtis, M Keane; H Byrne, H O'Sullivan; J French, R Kelleher, T O'Toole; M Dalton, J Dunne; J Dunleavy, M Agnew, J O'Sullivan. Reps: AN Other, J Duggan, J Aungier, C Ryan, R Foley, J Stewart, C Dean, J Hume.

Scotland U-20s - P Dewhirst; R McMichael, F Strachan S McDowall, K Rowe; R Thompson, C Chapman; S Gunn, R Smith (capt), F Richardson; E Johnson, J Hodgson; M Hughes, R Garge, D Onojaife. Reps: B Clements, N McBeth, M Walker, M Sykes, C Boyle, K Barreto, M New, L Trotter.'s U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC

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