The Under-20 team will be defending their 2010 Six Nations Championship title and five players from last year’s squad have been named in the team to face Italy at Stadio XXV Aprile in Parma. KO 6.00PM Irish Time.
Winger Andrew Conway makes a return to the side from last season along with Jordi Murphy and Niall Annett who will captain the side. David Doyle and Brendan Macken have been named in the replacements.
Despite winning the Championship last year under the guidance of Ulster’s Allen Clarke the team struggled in the U20 World Cup in Argentia losing all three of their pool fixtures including matches against England and France. With home advantage the Irish lads will be looking for revenge over their European rivals during this championship.
Despite a few shaky matches for the Ravens, the Ulster axis of Blane McIlroy, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall will be looking to make an impact at this age grade and hopefully us Ulster and Ireland supporters will get a look of things to come a few years down the line.
I think we’ve written enough about Dungannon speedster Craig Gilroy over the last few months but it is interesting to see that he’s starting a full back for this one and it’ll be intriguing to see how he reads the game. It does point to Ireland looking to counter-attack the bulky Italian side at every opportunity with Leinster’s Conway covering the defensive duties when young Craig surges up field!
Harlequins Annett retains the captaincy from the World Cup and never fails to impress with his composure on the field and it’s good to see Ballymena’s Conor Carey and Queen’s Iain Henderson making their breakthrough this season. Haven’t covered much of Carey this season but the prop is a strong impact player with excellent hands. Henderson, by all accounts, has moved up a level over recent weeks, with some storming games for Queen’s, so hopefully he will get some game time and make an impact in a competitive second row.
IRELAND U20: Craig Gilroy, Andrew Conway, Alex Kelly, Luke Marshall, Andrew Boyle, Patrick Jackson, Blane McIlroy, James Tracy, Niall Annett (C), Martin Moore, Michael Kearney, Daniel Qualter, Jordi Murphy, Aaron Conneely, Eoin McKeon. Replacements: David Doyle, Conor Carey, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Peter Du Toit, Cathal Marsh, Brendan Macken.