Meet the Ulster players in the Ireland U20 Squad.

Published Categorised as 2016-17, International Rugby U20, Ireland U20, World Rugby U20 Championship Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Peter Cooper, Angus Curtis, Jonny Stewart, Marcus Rea, Ireland U20
Peter Cooper, Angus Curtis, Jonny Stewart and Marcus Rea, Ireland U20s.

I must admit that when the Ireland U20’s squad for the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia was announced last week I was a little disappointed.

The squad was missing the exciting Ulster duo of Rob Lyttle and Johnny McPhillips as well as other key players in Bill Johnston, Cillian Gallagher, Jordan Larmour and Tommy O’Brien. These six accounted for around 20% of the game time in the last Six Nations. McPhillips, Johnston and Gallagher added buckets of experience having been involved in last year’s tournament and Larmour and O’Brien were among the leading try scorers in the last Six Nations.

The coaching ticket had also changed during the Six Nations with “FRU Favourite”  Nigel Carolan being called into the Connacht senior team. We’d really enjoyed Carolan’s time in charge, particularly last season’s U20 Championship in manchester where they finished second. However, last years forwards coach, Peter Malone, has stepped up and he’s scored extra points with The FRU by calling on Kieran Campbell, from the Ireland U19 set up, to assist with the backs.

Having now spent some time with the squad, in Birr on Friday morning, I must say that I am somewhat re-invigorated with the selection which has seen those experienced players replaced by rising stars from Campbell’s U19 set up.

The changes to the squad probably favour the four Ulster players included so we should be seeing plenty of game time from Jonny Stewart, Peter Cooper, Marcus Rea and Angus Curtis.

Angus Curtis, Ireland U20's
Angus Curtis, Queen’s University RFC

Curtis, who moved to Belfast from Zimbabwe in December 2016, is the son of David Curtis who clocked up 13 Ireland caps in 1991 – 92, including the 1991 World Cup. The youngster is now the front-runner to partner, fellow Queens player, Jonny Stewart at half back.

Jonny Stewart, Ireland U20's
Jonny Stewart, Queen’s University RFC

Stewart dominated the scrum-half berth during the Six Nations, starting all five games, though he will be pushed by Munster’s Jack Stafford, who had an impressive final twenty minutes against England in the last game of the Six Nations. I suspect that the management team will go with the provincial half back pairings of Ulster’s Stewart and Curtis and Munster’s Stafford and Alan Tynan with the Ulster pairing in prime position.

Peter Cooper, Ireland U20's
Peter Cooper, Belfast Harlequins RFC

We had a bit of a sweat on for Peter Cooper who started the Six Nations, at tighthead, before getting injured first match out. Leinster’s Charlie Connolly proceeded to start the remainder of the games and is now in prime position. However, Cooper has been out for a shoulder operation and is back to full fitness. As the only other specialist tighthead in the squad, he should see plenty of game time in this exceptionally attritional tournament.

Marcus Rea, Ireland U20's
Marcus Rea, Queen’s University RFC

With the experienced Gallagher ruled out, the door is now open for Rea to push for a starting spot in the highly competitive back row. Leinster’s Paul Boyle and Caelan Doris look to have the openside and No. 8 positions wrapped up leaving Rea to compete, primarily, with Munster’s Gavin Coombes for the blindside berth.

Again, the attrition of this tournament should see all six of the back row players getting plenty of game time with Munster’s John Foley and Connacht’s Sean Masterson also coming into the mix. Leinster’s Jack Regan has also played No. 6 but we see him as a second row.

Interestingly Rea was playing at No. 8 in the practice scrums that we watched on Friday so his versatility may get him the nod for a bench spot in those big games!

You can view all the relevant positions for all the squad below together with the number of starts and minutes played in the 2017 U20’s Six Nations, where appropriate.

Ireland U20 Player Stats

LooseheadJoey Conway30 Oct 199719Munster5392
LooseheadGreg McGrath20 Jan 199720Leinster23
LooseheadJordan Duggan7 Jan 199819Leinster  
HookerTadgh McElroy16 Jun 199719Leinster5307
HookerRonan Kelleher24 Jan 199819Leinster376
TightheadCharlie Connolly23 Oct 199719Leinster5286
TightheadPeter Cooper22 Jan 199720Ulster277
Second RowFineen Wycherley11 Dec 199719Munster4305
Second RowOisin Dowling23 Jun 199719Leinster5294
Second RowJack Regan9 May 199720Leinster5126
Back RowPaul Boyle14 Jan 199720Leinster5400
Back RowCaelan Doris2 Apr 199819Leinster5395
Back RowGavin Coombes11 Dec 199719Munster4152
Back RowMarcus Rea8 Sep 199719Ulster3101
Back RowJohn Foley3 Apr 199720Munster162
Back RowSean Masterson27 Jan 199819Connacht18
Scrum HalfJonny Stewart20 Feb 199819Ulster5366
Scrum HalfJack Stafford11 Jul 199719Munster220
Out HalfAngus Curtis26 Mar 199819Ulster  
Out HalfAlan Tynan9 Jul 199719Munster  
CentreCiaran Frawley4 Dec 199719Leinster5396
CentreGavin Mullin29 Nov 199719Leinster3240
CentreConor Dean27 Jan 199819Leinster  
CentreDavid McCarthy13 Apr 199819Munster  
Back ThreeCalvin Nash8 Aug 199719Munster4198
Back ThreeColm Hogan14 Jan 199720Munster4191
Back ThreeJack Kelly26 Oct 199719Leinster2113
Back ThreeMichael Sylvester4 Jun 199818Leinster  
Ireland U20’s Six Nations Starts and Minutes Played.

The Ireland squad head for Georgia on Thursday 25th May with the tournament kicking off the following week on Wednesday 31st May. Ireland are top seeds in Pool B and they are joined by Italy, Scotland and New Zealand. Fixtures and UK/Ireland kick off times shown below:

Ireland U20’s Pool B Fixtures.

  • WED MAY 31 2017: IRELAND v ITALY, 12:30 UK/IRE.
    AIA Arena, Kutaisi, Georgia.
  • SUN JUN 4 2017: IRELAND v SCOTLAND, 10:00 UK/IRE. 
    AIA Arena, Kutaisi, Georgia.
  • THU JUN 8 2017: IRELAND v NEW ZEALAND, 12:30 UK/IRE. AIA Arena, Kutaisi, Georgia.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.