Tuesday 26 March 2019

Table-topping Irish U-20s expect physical Italian outing

Ambrose Conboy. Photo: Sportsfile
Ambrose Conboy. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Two wins from two have the Ireland U-20s riding high at the top of the Six Nations table and their challenge now is to ensure that they don't take their eye off the ball in Italy.

There was some disappointment that they didn't get a bonus point against Scotland last time out and given that Italy have already beaten the Scots, Ireland will not be taking their hosts lightly this evening (6.0).

Continuity has been key for Noel McNamara's charges, who face a different kind of challenge from Italy as forwards coach Ambrose Conboy expects a bigger test at scrum time than what a big English pack posed in the opening round.

From that end, there will be a big onus on the front-row trio of Josh Wycherley, Dylan Tierney-Martin and Thomas Clarkson, who have impressed in both victories.

Martin Moloney, Scott Penny and John Hodnett have formed a formidable back-row unit and they will need to hit similar heights again against an Italian side who will look to take the game to Ireland up front.

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Interestingly, Italy have narrowed the pitch for the game, which tells you everything you need to know about their game-plan.

"They had a good win in Scotland and then had a tough time against Wales (a 42-12 loss at home)," Conboy (pictured) said of Italy.

"Their underage structure was always competitive, whether it was U-18, U-19 or U-20s, so it's the FIR (Italian rugby federation) putting a lot of work and investment into that through an old friend in Steve Aboud.

"His structures are paying dividends. They're far more competitive and the last three games as we've had against them have been one-score games in the end.

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"It's very tight and you don't take anything for granted. They're going to be physical, they're going to be maulers, really quality scrummagers and it's going to be testament to our forwards if we can match them.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's probably going to be a bigger scrummaging challenge than England. Not because of mass but because of cohesiveness and technical abilities."

The return of Ulster winger Angus Kernohan makes an already potent back-line even more dangerous and if the pack can set the platform, Ireland can keep their Grand Slam dream alive.

Italy U-20s v Ireland U-20s,

Live stream via IRFU, 6.0

Verdict: Ireland

Italy U-20s - G Da Re; E Mastandrea, M Moscardi, F Mori, M Mba; P Garbisi, L Citton; M Drudi, A Marinello, A Alongi; N C Stoian, T Parolo; A Chianucci, D Ruggeri, A Foffi. Reps: M Bonanni, L Franceschetto, M Nocera, M Butturini, M Zuliani, G Piva, D Mazza, J Trulla.

Ireland U-20s - J Flannery; A Kernohan, L Turner, D Hawkshaw (capt), J Wren; H Byrne, C Casey; J Wycherley, D Tierney-Martin, T Clarkson; C Ryan, N Murray; M Moloney, S Penny, J Hodnett. Reps: B Scannell, C Reid, M Milne, B Deeny, R Watters, C Foley, B Healy, R Russell.

Irish Independent

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