Ireland U20 Coach Noel McNamara named an extended squad of 32 players for the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship which takes place in Argentina next month from June 4 to 22.  The squad will be reduced to 28 ahead of their departure for Argentina.

The squad features seven Ulster U20 players with Bruce Houston (Ballymena), Stewart Moore (Malone) and Azur Allison (Ballymena) joining Angus Kernohan (Queens), David McCann (Banbridge), Callum Reid (Banbridge) and Iwan Hughes (Ballynahinch) who were all involved in the very successful U20 Six Nations campaign, though Hughes failed to pick up a cap. 

McNamara named a total of 33 different players in his match day squads for the Six Nations. However, four of those players were unused throughout the tournament resulting in 29 players receiving caps.

He relied heavily on a strong core of players and only really made forced changes; giving a pronounced difference in game time between his chosen starters and the rest of the squad. 

There are however four spots in his “preferred” team opened up with injuries to some key players, the following missing out. 

PLAYER CLUB PROVINCE MINS T C DG P PTS
Scott Penny UCD Leinster 387 1 0 0 0 5
Harry Byrne Lansdowne Leinster 231 0 9 0 6 36
David Hawkshaw Clontarf Leinster 208 1 0 0 0 5
Conor Philips Young Munster Munster 144 0 0 0 0 0

These are quite big losses to what was a tight unit over the Six Nations with Penny, Byrne and Hawkshaw all making big impacts. 

It leaves a core of 25 players who were involved in the six Nations to some degree, these players are shown below.

PLAYER CLUB PROVINCE MINS T C DG P PTS
Jonathan Wren Cork Constitution Munster 400 2 0 0 0 10
Liam Turner Dublin Uni Leinster 400 0 0 0 0 0
Charlie Ryan UCD Leinster 398 0 0 0 0 0
John Hodnett UCD Munster 390 1 0 0 0 5
Tom Clarkson Dublin Uni Leinster 389 1 0 0 0 5
Martin Moloney Old Belvedere Leinster 380 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Flannery Shannon Munster 377 0 1 0 0 2
Josh Wycherley Young Munster Munster 331 2 0 0 0 10
Dylan Tierney-Martin Corinthians Connacht 329 5 0 0 0 25
Niall Murray Buccaneers Connacht 325 0 0 0 0 0
Angus Kernohan Queen’s Uni Ulster 233 0 0 0 0 0
Craig Casey Shannon Munster 216 2 0 0 0 10
Sean French Cork Constitution Munster 192 0 0 0 0 0
Cormac Foley St Mary’s College Leinster 154 1 0 0 0 5
Ben Healy Garryowen Munster 150 0 5 0 4 22
Rob Russell Dublin Uni Leinster 65 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Baird Dublin Uni Leinster 59 0 0 0 0 0
John McKee Old Belvedere Leinster 55 0 0 0 0 0
Callum Reid Banbridge Ulster 53 1 0 0 0 5
Colm Reilly Buccaneers Connacht 30 1 0 0 0 5
David McCann Banbridge Ulster 27 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Milne UCD Leinster 26 0 0 0 0 0
Brian Deeney Clontarf Leinster 17 0 0 0 0 0
Ronan Watters St Mary’s College Leinster 8 0 0 0 0 0
Iwan Hughes Ballynahinch Ulster 0 0 0 0 0 0

Note, ten of the above players got limited game time, including Ulster’s Iwan Hughes who appeared in the squad for the final match against Wales but didn’t get on the pitch. 

The above are joined by: 

Bruce Houston (Ballymena)
Adam La Grue (Terenure College)
Stewart Moore (Malone)
Declan Adamson (Clontarf)
Thomas Ahern (Shannon)
Azur Allison (Ballymena)
Charlie Ward (Clontarf)

To complete the squad of 32 players. 

Given the abrasive nature of the U20 World Championship it is likely that all 32 players will be used at some time over the five match tournament though only 28 will be named in the official squad. Bringing in replacements has been quite common over the last few years and I’d be surprised if all 32 didn’t fly out together.   

However, my concern is the limited game time that McNamara handed out to players outside of his starters. 

Now, McNamara did mastermind a wonderfully successful tournament with Ireland achieving their first ever U20 Grand Slam but the Championship is a much more difficult proposition with five abrasive games over 18 days. 

After two disastrous Championships in Georgia and France where Ireland finished 9th and 11th respectively they really need to make an impact in this one.  

Due to their Six Nations Grand Slam the team are being touted as top four material, and they may well be, but I think top six is a much more realistic possibility. If McNamara does achieve this it will have been a very successful season. 

Ireland have been drawn in Pool B alongside England, who finished 2nd last time out, Australia (5th) and Italy (8th) and with Ireland being the lowest ranked team in the pool there won’t be any easy matches. 

The match schedule for the pool games is as follows. 

Ireland U20, World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures (Pool B)

Tuesday, June 4 – England v Ireland,  Santa Fe, 7.30pm UK/IRE

Saturday. June 8 – Australia v Ireland, Santa Fe, 2.30pm UK/IRE

Wednesday, June 12 – Italy v Ireland, Santa Fe, 2.30pm UK/IRE

 

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