Ireland Under-20 head coach Mike Ruddock has announced a provisional 23-man squad for this Friday’s RBS Under-20 6 Nations Championship opener away to Wales.
Ruddock’s inclusion of a strong Ulster contingent for the Welsh encounter is one which cannot be disputed, with the Ulster U20 squad winning the Interprovincial Grand Slam this season.
The selection of Malone’s Jake Caulfield, John Creighton, Christopher Taylor and Conor Joyce is representative of the club’s progression into division 1B of the Ulster Bank League from last season, with many of these players instrumental in Malone’s success.
Caulfield, a former member of Bristol Academy, has enjoyed a strong start to his first year within the Ulster ranks, dominating in the front row. Creighton, Malone’s magician, narrowly missed out on a place in Ireland’s Under-19 team last season, with many scratching their heads at his exclusion from the starting line up, never mind the training squad. Taylor and Joyce possess impressive CVs, having gained Under-19 representative honours, with Joyce captaining the side and both playing their part in the historic victory over England at London Irish RFC. Joyce has also featured regularly for the Ravens this season at blindside, although rumours would say that he may take the 8 shirt come Friday.
John Andrew of Ballymena, the brother of Ulster’s Ricky Andrew, also reached Under-19 national level last season, and with his involvement with the U20’s this year; the hooker could well be awarded with an Ulster Academy place in the near future. Ballynahinch’s powerful second row John Donnan was a key figure in Ulster’s U20 success story, crossing the whitewash against Munster and as a result was bolstered onto the bench for the Ravens during their British and Irish Cup campaign.
Stuart Olding and Rory Scholes have consistently impressed for Belfast Harlequins and the Ravens, lighting up the backline with pace, power and precision on a weekly basis. Olding, having already pulled on the Ireland U20 jersey during last year’s crusade, will look to draw on his experience, and lead the Ulster representatives to what should be a successful campaign for the young Ulstermen.
IRELAND U20 SQUAD
- John Andrew (Ballymena/Ulster)
- Jake Caulfield (Malone/Ulster)
- John Creighton (Malone /Ulster)
- Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
- Thomas Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster)
- John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
- Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster)
- Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster)
- Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster)
- Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster)
- George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons/Exile)
- Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster)
- Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins /Ulster)
- Alexander O’Meara (Hartpury/Exiles)
- David Panter (Corinthians/Connacht)
- Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster)
- Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
- Brian Scott (UCC/Munster)
- Darren Sweetnam (UCC/Munster)
- Christopher Taylor (Malone/Ulster)
- Gavin Thornbury (UCD/Leinster)
- Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster)
- Josh Van Der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
IRELAND U20 SIX NATIONS FIXTURES
- Friday, February 1, 19:10 – Wales U20 v Ireland U20, Parc Eirias
- Friday, February 8, 19:35 – Ireland U20 v England U20, Dubarry Park
- Friday, February 22, 19:30 – Scotland U20 v Ireland U20, Netherdale
- Friday, March 8, 19:45 – Ireland U20 v France U20, Dubarry Park
- Friday, March 15, 18:00 – Italy U20 v Ireland U20, Stadio del Marsi