In the light of this morning’s drubbing of the seniors it’s the U20’s that have proved to be the real men of Irish rugby over the last 18 days, beating South Africa, Itlay, England and France in their five matches and if it hadn’t been for the appalling conditions in the Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch for the first game against England it would have been five wins out of five or at least a top three finish in this highly entertaining competition.
That the Irish lads completely controlled the last two games, against England and France, winning both at a stroll, is testament to the coaching team with Mike Ruddock And Allen Clarke both worthy of special mention. Ruddock, to his credit, has encouraged all his teams to play rugby and Clarke, as with his time with Ulster has added a hard edge up front with the Irish pack seldom taking a backward step.
Delighted to report that Clarke will be returning to Ravenhill to take over the Academy, probably the best signing that Humphreys has made to date. Hopefully it’s the first step in paving the way for the return of Mark McCall!
And so to the game.
Due to technical difficulties, i.e. the locals in the bar in Galway wanting to watch the Queen arrive at Ascot fer fecks sake, I only managed to see the first half but it was a fairly dull affair with Ireland leading 6 – 0 through two JJ Hanrahan penalties. Both Chris Farrell and Iain Henderson made ground with the ball in hand but it was a first half that both defences dominated though Ireland did enjoy the bulk of possession and territory.
Ireland turned pressure into points at the start of the second half with Hanrahan adding another nine points from the boot to give Ireland a comfortable 15 – 0 lead after 60 minutes.
France eventually managed to force their way into the game with Fickou going over after a period of sustained pressure close to the Irish line and with Selponi ading the extras the score moved to 15 – 7.
Ireland finished the game on top with Hanrahan adding his sixth penalty with two minutes to go giving Ireland a deserved 18 -7 win and their highest ever placing in the Junior World Championships.
Couldn’t get a camera into the game but below are our pictures from the other four games. A big thanks to the guys out there for sending them in.
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There appears to be only one change in the Ireland U20’s for tomorrow’s 5th place play off against France in the 2012 Junior World Championship, with Conor Finn replacing Mikey Sherlock on the bench.
The Irish are already guaranteed their highest finish since the Championship was established five years ago and irrespective of tomorrow’s result they will be in the second tier of seeds for next seasons championship, in theory giving them an easier route to the final.
It’s been a successful tournament for Ulster’s youngsters with all establishing themselves throughout the tournament. Iain Henderson, now in his final appearance for the U20’s, has transitioned smoothly into his more natural position of back row and along with Tadhg Furlong has added a hard edge and physical presence to the young Irish pack.
Chris Farrell, Stuart Olding and Peter Nelson all have another year at this level and all three now look to be firmly established in the Irish set-up. Farrell has been steady, if unspectacular, but did make a noticeable improvement with every game. More importantly at this level, the big Gannon centrer was a willing, and muscular, target for his team mates to play off almost always making the gain line with the ball in hand.
Olding, brought along as a utility back who can fill in at out half, centre or full back has performed well to force his way into the starting line up for the last two games. A quick reader of what’s in front of him he has been able to play off Farrell well and, although he’s still finding his feet at this level he is one player who has the ability to go a long long way – it’s a big season ahead for the youngster.
Nelson, probably the most naturally gifted of all the Irish backs is another who can find the space in front of him and another great prospect. I was particularly impressed when he recovered after a shaky enough start against the Baby Bokke to become one of the Irish players of the tournament with an outstanding display against Italy.
However the honour of Irish Player of the Tournament and currently in the running for the Player of the Tournament, is Munster and UL Bohs out half JJ Hanrahan who has made the most of the absence of Ulster’s Paddy Jackson to absolutely own the out half position with some decidedly quirky but highly effective play which has been a joy to watch.
Others who have impressed are Scannell and Furlong in the front row, Coghlan and Conan in the back row and Marmion has completely changed my opinion of his play between the first and the last game of this championship.
With regards tomorrow’s (Friday) game, KO 1:15pm UK/Ireland the Irish side would start as marginal favourites by virtue of their one point win in the Six Nations earlier this year.
|Des Merry||1||Jefferson Poirot|
|Niall Scannell (C)||2||Jean Charles Fidinde|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Pascal Cotet|
|Alan O’Connor||4||Pierre Gayraud|
|Tadhg Beirne||5||Paul Jedrasiak|
|Iain Henderson||6||Julien Kazubek|
|Jordon Coghlan||7||Kelian Galletier|
|Jack Conan||8||Karl Chateau (C)|
|Kieran Marmion||9||Eric Escande|
|JJ Hanrahan||10||Thomas Laranjeira|
|Foster Horan||11||Bastien Fuster|
|Chris Farrell||12||Gael Fickou|
|Stuart Olding||13||Jonathan Danty|
|Barry Daly||14||Vincent Martin|
|Peter Nelson||15||Theo Platon|
|James Rael||16||Raphael Carbou|
|Peter Reilly||17||Jean-Baptiste Custosa|
|Jake Cawley||18||Khatchik Vartanov|
|Shane Buckley||19||Johan Aliouat|
|Aaron Conneely||20||Etienne Quiniou|
|Luke McGrath||21||Enzo Selponi|
|Jack Carty||22||Yohann Artru|
|Conor Finn||23||Alexandre Derrien|