Ireland U20: Who did what 2018?

Published Categorised as 2017-18, International Rugby U20, Ireland U20, Six Nations Under 20, World Rugby U20 Championship Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ireland U20s ahead of their game against Georgia in Narbonne.
Ireland U20s ahead of their game against Georgia in Narbonne.

We continue to benchmark the season just gone with a look at the performance of Ireland U20’s in the Six Nations and the 2018 World Rugby Championship.

Results wise it wasn’t the best of seasons for Ireland U20’s. Their two wins in the Six Nations (against Italy and Scotland) were followed by a single win (against Japan) in the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship as Ireland slumped to an 11th place finish, their lowest ever.

You can view our match reports (and match galleries) below.

U20 World Championship: Ireland 39 Japan 33
U20 World Championship: Ireland 39 Japan 33

U20 World Championship: Teams for Ireland v Japan relegation battle!
U20 World Championship: Teams for Ireland v Japan relegation battle!

U20 World Championship: Ireland 29 Scotland 45
U20 World Championship: Ireland 29 Scotland 45

U20 World Championship: Teams up for Ireland v Scotland
U20 World Championship: Teams up for Ireland v Scotland

U20 World Championship: Ireland 20 Georgia 24
U20 World Championship: Ireland 20 Georgia 24

U20 World Championship: Teams up for Ireland v Georgia
U20 World Championship: Teams up for Ireland v Georgia

U20 World Championship: Australia 54 Japan 19
U20 World Championship: Australia 54 Japan 19

U20 World Championship: South Africa 30 Ireland 17
U20 World Championship: South Africa 30 Ireland 17

U20 World Championship: Teams up for South Africa v Ireland
U20 World Championship: Teams up for South Africa v Ireland

U20 World Championship: South Africa 33 Georgia 27
U20 World Championship: South Africa 33 Georgia 27

U20 World Championship: France 26 Ireland 24
U20 World Championship: France 26 Ireland 24

U20 World Championship: Teams announced for France v Ireland
U20 World Championship: Teams announced for France v Ireland

Ireland Squad Named for 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship
Ireland Squad Named for 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship

U20 Six Nations Wrap – Who Did What?
U20 Six Nations Wrap – Who Did What?

U20 Six Nations Round 5 Wrap
U20 Six Nations Round 5 Wrap

Under 20: Teams up for England v Ireland
Under 20: Teams up for England v Ireland

U20 Six Nations Round 4 Wrap
U20 Six Nations Round 4 Wrap

Under 20: Teams up for Ireland v Scotland.
Under 20: Teams up for Ireland v Scotland.

Under 20 Six Nations Round 3 Wrap
Under 20 Six Nations Round 3 Wrap

Under 20: Teams up for Ireland v Wales.
Under 20: Teams up for Ireland v Wales.

Under 20 Six Nations Round 2 Wrap
Under 20 Six Nations Round 2 Wrap

Ireland U20 Announced for Italy Game
Ireland U20 Announced for Italy Game

Under 20 Six Nations Round 1 Wrap
Under 20 Six Nations Round 1 Wrap

Ireland U20’s announced for French opener.
Ireland U20’s announced for French opener.

U20: 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship to be held in France.
U20: 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship to be held in France.

Results

COMPETITIONPLWPDTFTATBLBPTS
Six Nations52(37)20263112
U20 Championship51(29)1623319
Combined103(66)36496221

As we said in our Six Nations Wrap it was always going to be a rebuilding year as the new coaching ticket of Noel McNamara and Paul O’Connell found their feet but, having said that, it was still disappointing. There were some good individual performances but the inability to grind out a win was worrying.

So how bad was it?

We were not over concerned by their Six Nations performance at the time. In fact we had remained resolutely positive throughout until they shipped five tries in a second haf capitulation to England in their final game.

Up until then they looked like a good attacking team, averaging four tries per game, but they did have issues with their concentration in defence as they shipped an average of five tries with all games having periods where they just appeared to switch off.

Unfortunately this pattern continued in the World Championship.

A promising first half performance against eventual champions France, where they led 17 – 5 at the break, ended with a 26 – 24 defeat. That match could have went either way but it was followed by a substantial defeat to South Africa. In this one they trailed 12 – 10 at the break but ended up losing 30 – 17 in Narbonne.

In their third game Georgia took a 17 – 8 lead into the break before Ireland got their act together but they eventually went down 24 – 20 in a match where they squandered five scoring chances in the last 10 minutes. This set up a play-off match against Scotland and again a flurry of tries in the second half by the Scots saw them go down 45 – 29 in perhaps their most disappointing game.

Even in their win against Japan, a substantial first half lead was almost overturned as they shipped three second half tries, their blushes saved by a late effort from Tommy O’Brien.

In all the games, except Georgia, the matches swung on periods where they conceded consecutive tries in a five minute burst from their opponents as the pattern from the Six Nations of periods of poor concentration were repeated.

It’s a pity that the coaching team didn’t find a way to address this recurring problem as I still think that there was a good team there trying to get out.

I’ve been wondering if the issue lies with the coaching or the players and I really don’t have an answer. I do think that the disbandment of the U20 Interprovincials does have something to do with it. The players are now transitioned into the club or A Team game where they can rely on the judgement of more experienced players for their game management and it was in their game management where they were found most wanting.

So who did what.

As I said earlier we have already done a Six Nations Wrap where we looked at the 33 players used during that tournament. On a provincial basis that squad was dominated by Leinster (52.0% game time) and Ulster (29.6% game time).

Over the course of the World Championship the reliance on Leinster players increased to 62.0% of game time, largely at the expense of Ulster players which fell to 22.6% of game time. Nothing sinister here, the differences entirely covered by the withdrawal of Ulster’s Angus Curtis and Tom O’Toole due to injury!

Combining the two tournaments we got a look at colossal 44 players this season, with 11 new names called up into the World Championship squad. The overall breakdown by Province as follows.

ProvincePlayers UsedMinutes Played% Minutes Played
Connacht 32291.9%
Leinster20681957.0%
Munster10179215.0%
Ulster11312026.1%
Total4411960100.0%
Note: 40 minutes lost across the two tournaments due to Yellow Cards.

From an Ulster perspective 11 players used across the two tournaments is probably an all time high at this level but it’s still a long way off the Leinster representation.

The appearance and scoring stats for the players used over the 10 games are shown below.

PLAYERSTARTSMINUTESTRYCONPENDGPTSPROVINCE
Tommy O’Brien10750400020Leinster
Jack Dunne1074600000Leinster
Jordan Duggan1065800000Leinster
Michael Silvester861410005Leinster
Matthew Agnew960010005Ulster
Harry Byrne1057522012086Leinster
Jack Aungier950710005Leinster
James Hume747210005Ulster
Hugh O’Sullivan10446200010Leinster
Cormac Daly7422200010Leinster
Matthew Dalton640710005Ulster
Caelan Doris539010005Leinster
Sean O’Brien538800000Leinster
Jack O’Sullivan5360400020Munster
Joe Dunleavy635610005Ulster
Diarmuid Barron835200000Munster
Jonny Stewart9351310017Ulster
Peter Sylvester4320200010Munster
Angus Curtis432010005Ulster
James McCarthy5275300015Munster
Peter Sullivan323110005Leinster
Conor Dean8225142019Leinster
Sean Masterson419900000Connacht
Angus Kernohan518900000Ulster
Jack Daly318110005Munster
Ronan Kelleher316900000Leinster
Tom Roche316400000Leinster
Tom O’Toole514100000Ulster
Eoghan Clarke313800000Leinster
Aaron Hall413800000Ulster
Dan Sheehan512710005Leinster
Joe Byrne411400000Leinster
James French511100000Munster
Charlie Ryan59300000Leinster
David McCarthy18000000Munster
Michael Lowry18000000Ulster
Mark Keane16600000Ulster
Ronan Foley05500000Leinster
Bryan O’Connor35200000Munster
Ronan Coffey03400000Munster
Daniel Hurley12700000Munster
Jakub Wojkowicz21610005Connacht
Dylan Tierney11400000Connacht
Paddy Patterson0700000Leinster
Yellow Card 040
Penalty Try11007
Total217120003626140274

To me this was six to eight players too many to look at. In an ideal world I’d guess you would be wanting to look at your squad during the Six Nations and go into the World Championship with a defined starting side and replacements plus injury cover.

Of course there were injuries between the tournaments but the coaching team never really settled on their best back line and, in fairness, with the exception of Michael Silvester and Curtis in the centre, few of the backs stood up to make a position their own. Plenty put their names forward for a place in the starting side but few settled into a fixed position.

The Ulster contribution

Four Ulster players appear in the Top 15 of minutes played with Matthew Agnew the highest, recording 600 minutes out of a possible 800.

James Hume features strongly despite being unavailable for the first 3 rounds of the Six Nations but he subsequently played in every match he was available for and clocked up 472 minutes overall.

Matthew Dalton had a recurring shoulder injury during the World Championships and had a call up for Ulster during the Six Nations but he clocked up 407 minutes and Joe Dunleavy played in 6 of the seven games he was available for to record 356 minutes.

Disappointingly FRU Favourite, Johnny Stewart, dropped out of the top 15 and was restricted to 351 minutes over the nine games he was available for with Leinster’s Hugh O’Sullivan winning the battle at scrum half more often than not.

The hugely impressive Curtis had his season curtailed after picking up a knock playing for Ulster and was unable to add to the 360 minutes picked up over the Six Nations as was the case with O’Toole who was unable to improve on his 141 minutes.

Somewhat surprisingly youngster Angus Kernoghan who featured in the Six Nations and subsequent U19 matches didn’t make the cut and remained on 181 minutes.

The highly rated Aaron Hall and Michael Lowry both suffered with injuries throughout. Hall never really found his pre injury form clocking up 138 minutes as a back row replacement and Lowry made his only appearance in a delightful cameo in the final match of the World Championship with an impressive display at full back against Japan.

Mark Keane, who impressed after a late call up to last season’s World Championship, was out of favour this year with only one 66 minute appearance in the Six Nations.

Who did the scoring.

Over the ten games Ireland U20 scored 274 points from 36 tries, 26 conversions and 14 penalties.  An average of 3.6 tries per game is pretty impressive. Unfortunately they conceded 4.9 tries per game and, as I said, their defence was their main problem throughout the two competitions.

Fifteen (42%) of the tries scored came from the forwards (including a penalty try) with the remaining 21 coming from the backs.

PLAYERSTARTSMINSTRYCONPENDGPTSProvince
Harry Byrne1057522012086Leinster
Tommy O’Brien10750400020Leinster
Jack O’Sullivan5360400020Munster
Conor Dean8225142019Leinster
Jonny Stewart9351310017Ulster
James McCarthy5275300015Munster
Hugh O’Sullivan10446200010Leinster
Cormac Daly7422200010Leinster
Peter Sylvester4320200010Munster
Michael Silvester861410005Leinster
Matthew Agnew960010005Ulster
Jack Aungier950710005Leinster
James Hume747210005Ulster
Matthew Dalton640710005Ulster
Caelan Doris539010005Leinster
Joe Dunleavy635610005Ulster
Angus Curtis432010005Ulster
Peter Sullivan323110005Leinster
Jack Daly318110005Munster
Dan Sheehan512710005Leinster
Jakub Wojkowicz21610005Connacht

Unsurprisingly out half Harry Byrne leads the points scoring with 20 conversions and 12 penalties to add to his two tries.  Utility back O’Brien and No. 8 Jack O’Sullivan led the try scoring with 4 each. It’s a particularly impressive return from O’Sullivan and his absence from the World Championship due to injury was a big loss.

Ulster’s Stewart chipped in with 3 tries with Agnew, Hume, Dalton, Dunleavy and Curtis all picking up one each.

I’m afraid that’s it for the combined stats as we don’t get much else on the Six Nations matches. However we do have additional stats, provided by World Rugby for the U20 Championship. These are stats that World Rugby supply and unfortunately there are only partial stats for meters made and none for turnovers which would probably have been more meaningful. 

Clean breaks (U20 Championship)

PLAYERSTARTSMINUTESCLEAN
BREAKS
CLEAN BREAKS
PER 80 MINS
PROVINCE
Jonny Stewart517052.4Ulster
James Hume432092.3Ulster
Tom Roche316431.5Leinster
Tommy O’Brien536561.3Leinster
Michael Silvester322131.1Leinster
Caelan Doris539051.0Leinster
Michael Lowry18011.0Ulster
Harry Byrne524431.0Leinster
Jack Daly318120.9Munster
Sean O’Brien537330.6Leinster

Ulster’s Stewart and Hume top the clean break table in terms of clean breaks per 80 minutes played.

Tackles made (U20 Championship)

PLAYERSTARTSMINUTESTACKLES
MADE
TACKLES MADE
PER 80 MINS
PROVINCE
Dylan Tierney-Martin1141057.1Connacht
Charlie Ryan2371634.6Leinster
Caelan Doris53907816.0Leinster
Joe Dunleavy42323512.1Ulster
Jack Daly31812511.0Munster
Joe Byrne41141510.5Leinster
Matthew Agnew52803510.0Ulster
Jordan Duggan5369429.1Leinster
Diarmuid Barron4259299.0Munster
Dan Sheehan5127148.8Leinster

There can be no denying that Dylan Tierney-Martin and Charlie Ryan made the most of limited game time by putting in the tackles when they came on 😯 however, the huge contribution by Caelan Doris is worthy of note with an average of 16 per game.

Not only did Doris make the most tackles for Ireland but he completed the most tackles across all the teams in the tournament. Ulster’s back row pairing of Dunleavy and Agnew also contributed well with averages of 12.1 and 10.0 respectively.

Carry Support (U20 Championship)

PLAYERSTARTSMINUTESCARRY
SUPPORT
CARRY SUPPORT
PER 80 MINS
PROVINCE
Jakub Wojkowicz21615.0Connacht
Jonny Stewart517041.9Ulster
Tommy O’Brien536571.5Leinster
Jack Dunne540051.0Leinster
Michael Lowry18011.0Ulster
Harry Byrne524431.0Leinster
Jack Daly318120.9Munster
Aaron Hall39810.8Ulster
Caelan Doris539030.6Leinster
Peter Sylvester432020.5Munster
James Hume432020.5Ulster

Jakub Wojkowicz managed to get in one carry support in his limited time on the pitch but top honours in this category go to Ulster’s Stewart with Leinster’s Tommy O’Brien and Jack Dunne also supporting well. Ulster’s Lowry and Hall also make the Top Ten, albeit on limited game time.

Offloads (U20 Championship)

PLAYERSTARTSMINUTESOFFLOADSOFFLOADS
PER 80 MINS
PROVINCE
Caelan Doris5390153.1Leinster
Conor Dean415652.6Leinster
Dan Sheehan512731.9Leinster
Cormac Daly419441.6Leinster
James McCarthy25011.6Munster
Michael Silvester322131.1Leinster
Sean O’Brien537330.6Leinster
Jonny Stewart517010.5Ulster
Jack Daly318110.4Munster
Tommy O’Brien536520.4Leinster
Jack Dunne540020.4Leinster

Caelan Doris not only topped the offload charts for Ireland but this is the second set of stats where he set the standard for the tournament. Conor Dean chipped in well during his limited game time as did Sheehan, Cormac Daly and James McCarthy but the more regular starters contributed little in this aspect of play.

I thought that Ireland underused this aspect of the game with a average of 8 off loads per game. However the key proponents, France, averaged 12 and the other finalists, England, averaged 10 so Ireland weren’t that far off.

The Front Row Union Ireland U20 Player of the Year

The stats are some help in deciding the Player of the Year but we are also fortunate that we have a raft of photographic galleries we can review for the majority of the games. From our review of the thousands of photos we took over the two tournaments there was one player who stood out with his ball carrying and support play on a continual basis.

There were strong cases for Caelan Doris, Jack O’Sullivan, Angus Curtis, Michael Silvester and Matthew Agnew but the player that produced the goods over the two tournament and is The Front Row Union Ireland U20 Player of the Season is the Leinster second row Jack Dunne who maintained a consistently high standard throughout.

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