The teams were announced a couple of days ago for Friday nights U20 Six Nations Fixture between Ireland and France. The match kicks off at Irish Independent Park (the old Musgrave Park), Cork . Kick off is at 7.15pm (live RTÉ Two).
The move to Cork this season has certainly been a successful one, with a good crowd out last time against England and over 6,000 expected for this one. However, it does make it difficult for us Nordies to cover. Though, with only one Ulster player, Angus Kernoghan, in the starting line up over the first three games there is not really a lot for us to cover from an Ulster perspective.
It’s a pity, as it’s been a fantastic tournament for the Irish youngsters so far. The tone was set with a nail biting win against England, at a raucous Independant Park on the opening weekend, and they followed that up with wins against Scotland and Italy away. They are the only unbeaten side in the tournament and they have picked up fourteen, out of a possible fifteen, points along the way.
Head coach Noel McNamara has done a good job of steading the ship, in what I reckon is his first real season in charge on his own terms. The U20 ‘s programme had nose dived with the team plummeting to 9th and then 11th in the U20 World Championships in the two years since their all time high finish of 2nd in 2016 under the excellent Nigel Carolan.
They now look to be getting back to where they should be but the real benchmark on progress will be how they perform in the 2019 U20 World Championship in Argentina in June. It’s with this in mind that I have my only slight grumble about this highly successful campaign.
To date, McNamara has used 28 out of 30 named players in this competition with 15 players playing 90% of the total playing time. Two named players have had no time at all on the pitch and the other 13 account for 10% of the playing time.
Of course, you don’t want to change a winning team, and, you can’t complain about the performances of the starters, they have been good, but, looking ahead to the brutality of the U20 Championship, where five game are played in 20 days, I would like to see a touch more game time for the boys on the bench.
You can check out the team match stats after the first three rounds below. The three Ulster players involved are Kernoghan (Queens) as a starter and Banbridge pair Callum Reid and David McCann have both made appearances off the bench.
McNamara has once again limited his changes to the starting XV with Cork Constitution’s Sean French moving to centre for the injured David Hawkshaw. There is a bit more movement in the replacements and it’s comparatively good news for Ulster with McCann returning to the squad, after missing out against Italy, to join his Banbridge clubmate Reid.
Dublin University’s Ryan Baird joins the squad for the first time and he and Galwegians’ Ryan Lomas will be hoping to pick up their first cap from the bench.
France have made ten changes to their squad following their big win against Scotland last time out. Matthis Lebel, Louis Carbonel, Julien Delbouis and captain Arthur Vincent return to the back line.
Up front, Jean Baptiste Gros comes into the front row and Sacha Zegueur the back row and it’s a new pairing in the second row with Florent Vanverberghe joining Gauthier Maravat.
The reigning World Champions won’t be happy with their capitulation to England in the second round, which led to a few changes against Scotland, and they will be looking to topple Ireland in this one. They certainly have the firepower to do damage but they have also shipped quite a few tries so it should be an entertaining evening in Cork.
We’re tipping Ireland to just about hold on in a high scoring game.
Update 8th March 13:00
There is a late change to the Ireland U20 side to face France U20 this evening in Irish Independent Park. Out-half Harry Byrne is ruled out through injury and is replaced in the starting side by Ben Healy. James McCarthy comes into the replacements.
We’ve amended the team accordingly.
|Ireland U20||France U20|
|Jake Flannery||15||Alexandre de Nardi|
|Angus Kernohan||14||Vincent Pinto|
|Liam Turner||13||Arthur Vincent|
|Sean French||12||Julien Delbouis|
|Jonathan Wren||11||Matthis Lebel|
|Ben Healy||10||Louis Carbonel|
|Craig Casey||9||Quentin Delord|
|Josh Wycherley||1||Jean-Baptiste Gros|
|Dylan Tierney-Martin||2||Rayne Barka|
|Tom Clarkson||3||Alex Burin|
|Charlie Ryan||4||Gauthier Maravat|
|Niall Murray||5||Florent Vanverberghe|
|Martin Moloney||6||Paul Boudehent|
|Scott Penny||7||Sacha Zegueur|
|John Hodnett||8||Jordan Joseph|
|John McKee||16||Loris Zarantonello|
|Callum Reid||17||Eli Eglaine|
|Ryan Lomas||18||Giorgi Beria|
|Ryan Baird||19||Adrien Warion|
|David McCann||20||Maxence Lemardelet|
|Cormac Foley||21||Kevin Viallard|
|James McCarthy||22||Mathieu Smaili|
|Rob Russell||23||Ethan Dumortier|