It’s the start of another 10 match journey as we get to know the great and the good of the Ireland U20’s over the Six Nations and the World Championship tournaments.
Five of the players selected for the opening game of this season’s Six Nations were in the set up last season with the pick being Dublin University prop Tom Clarkson who picked up The Front Row Union U20’s Player of the Year last season.
Banbridge’s David McCann also impressed in his six outings for the U20’s last season but I would guess it was his outstanding form for Ulster A in the Celtic Cup that sees him pick up the captain’s armband. His performances led to our nominating him the Player of the Tournament in tht competition.
The other returnees are Thomas Ahern, Brian Deeny and Charlie Ward who all featured in the World Championship squad over the summer though Ward also clocked up some game time over last seasons Six Nations.
McCann is joined in the squad by fellow Ulster players Ethan McIlroy (Queen’s University), Hayden Hyde (Ballynahinch), Lewis Finlay (Malone) and Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch).
Winger McIlroy, scrum half Finlay and hooker Stewart are all exciting ball players who like to test their opponent’s defence. Stewart is a particular favourite since catching the eye at BRA and I’m looking forward to see how he goes at this level. Hyde settled in remarkably quickly after joining the Ulster camp over the summer and he will add a solid and composed presence to Ireland’s midfield.
Also on our radar is Cork Constitutions Jack Crowley, with the young out half racking up 41 points to date for the AIL 1A runaway leaders, and Lansdowne’s back row Mark Hernan has picked up a couple of tries in recent weeks as Lansdowne enjoy a run of good form.
While last years cohorts dominated the Six Nations it was through a simple game plan and a really strong pack coupled with a fantastic work ethic. However, it required plenty of rest time between games. This strategy was found wanting during the intense schedule of the World Championship which resulted in an 8th place finish. This time round, from those players I know, they do seem to have picked a more risk taking back line, which may be more suited for tilt at the big one over the summer.
Certainly, I won’t be worried about initial results, it will take this back line a game or two to hit their straps.
This is one of my favourite brands of rugby and I hope they do opt for more risk taking this season. We could be seeing some classic games along the way.
Starting squads below.
|Oran McNulty||15||Ollie Smith|
|Ethan Mcilroy||14||Jacob Henry|
|Dan Kelly||13||Matthew Currie|
|Hayden Hyde||12||Robbie McCallum|
|Andrew Smith||11||Jack Blain|
|Jack Crowley||10||Nathan Chamberlain|
|Lewis Finlay||9||Roan Frostwick|
|Charlie Ward||1||Alex Maxwell|
|Tom Stewart||2||Ewan Ashman|
|Tom Clarkson||3||Dan Gamble|
|Brian Deeny||4||Kieran Watt|
|Thomas Ahern||5||Cameron Henderson|
|Sean O’Brien||6||Jack Hill|
|Mark Hernan||7||Connor Boyle|
|David McCann||8||Rory Darge|
|John McKee||16||Rory Jackson|
|Ciaran Ryan||17||Mak Wilson|
|Ryan McMahon||18||Thomas Lambert|
|Joe McCarthy||19||Jamie Campbell|
|Alex Soroka||20||Gregor Brown|
|Ben Murphy||21||Kyle McGhie|
|Tim Corkery||22||Cameron Scott|
|Luis Faria||23||Rufus McLean|