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Ronan O'Gara and Johnny Sexton inspire young Irish out-half






Life on the pitch right now couldn't be going much better for Jack Crowley, who after steering the Ireland U-20s to two from two Six Nations victories, got the chance to train against Johnny Sexton earlier this week.

Crowley was able to pick up a couple of things from the Ireland captain and how he ran the game-plan, even if it was only a training session.

For the U-20s out-half, it was another chance to learn from one of the best 10s that the country has ever produced as a few months ago, Crowley also met with his fellow Cork native Ronan O'Gara.

If the 20-year old felt like this was all happening very quickly, then he was right, because just last year, he was captaining his school Bandon Grammar.

"It was interesting talking to him, I spoke to him about more 10 specific things, in terms of kicking," Crowley said of his conversation with O'Gara.

"Obviously, he's kicked in high-pressure games and stuff. His mentality going into games and how he prepared.

"It was unbelievable to talk to someone of his calibre and he's a coach now so he has a different aspect of the game as well as just being a player. It was really beneficial.

"I played a few games at full-back and he just asked me where I wanted to play and I said I wanted to be a 10.

"He spoke about the main things; the game management, having that kicking side to your game and now such a huge part of the 10's game is being a running 10 as well.

"You can't just be an empty threat and just passing the ball on as well. They were the main things he said; game management, getting your reps through the week of kicking as he obviously did.

"There was nothing really unusual or different which is what probably makes a great 10 - keeping it simple. That was the main point I got off him."

Wednesday's session with the Ireland senior team at Irish Independent Park provided Crowley and his U-20s team-mates an insight into what it will take to make that considerable next step up.

"Coming up against Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne – even talking to them, understanding learnings from them," Crowley maintained.

"It's just an unbelievable competitive atmosphere that you're training against Irish seniors and you can learn so much from them.

"By doing that, you can have the highest standards. Other teams in the 20s campaign might not have that opportunity so we're lucky to have this unbelievable opportunity to train against seniors."

Like their senior counterparts, the Ireland U-20s will go to England next weekend looking to keep their Grand Slam dream alive.

Getting the chance to go up against Andy Farrell side will set them up well for that tough challenge, according to Crowley.

"We have a thing in the 20s that we respect all but we fear no-one and I think that’s what we've shown over the last few weeks and even coming up against the seniors," he added.

"Obviously it's an unbelievable opportunity to come up against these fellas who ideally would be your peers, but once you go out on the pitch you almost forget, even with the Six Nations, you almost forget that you're playing a Six Nations game, you're just playing another game of rugby.

"I mean, that's the benefit of playing in such a big bunch of lads, that it almost normalises it because our standards are so high and we expect so much of ourselves that when we do get an opportunity to train with the seniors you don't get dulled by it or amazed by it."

Online Editors