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 did 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.

Can’t wait!

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

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