U-20 boss McNamara happy with 'learning experience'
Ireland U-20s head coach Noel McNamara has called on his players to use their second-half performance in France last Friday as the template for the rest of their Six Nations campaign.
McNamara's young charges welcome Italy to Donnybrook this Friday night as they look to bounce back from the 34-24 defeat against France.
Ireland struggled with nerves in a ragged first-half display but there was a marked difference in the second period as they almost completed a remarkable comeback.
"There was an element of it being their first game," McNamara admitted.
"You try and prepare as best you can but the reality is that nothing prepares them for that until they actually experience it.
"There were times in that first half when we caused ourselves problems as well as France causing us problems.
"When you put the two of those together you see the consequences of it at half-time. A lot of that boils down to the character of the players.
"Ultimately they responded and that was always going to happen so I wouldn't read too much into what happened at half-time, but they certainly demonstrated a lot of character in that second half.
"We probably feel that we were desperately unlucky not to get something out of the game and we probably feel as if we could have won it.
"Collectively we feel we could have done better in that 40 minutes. That's the bottom line.
"It's a learning experience and the challenge now is to get the things right this week that we didn't last week.
"It's great to have that opportunity this week because you don't get it in a one-off match. We have it now in this championship. We certainly feel we're still in a good place this week."
Several players sat out yesterday's training session in Donnybrook as the attritional nature of the French clash continues to take its toll.
Ulster's Aaron Hall was replaced at half-time after picking up a shoulder injury, and McNamara revealed that the flanker had "demonstrated a huge strength of character" after finding out his grandmother had passed away while the squad were in France.
Hall's provincial team-mate James Hume joined the squad yesterday as the highly-rated centre continues his return from a leg fracture that he picked up last summer.
"It's difficult when you are coming back from a long injury like that," McNamara added.
"He would have played a lot for Irish Schools and U-19s. It's just taking its time to heal."
Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC
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