Ireland U20: Six Nations Review

Published Categorised as 2019-20, International Rugby U20, Ireland U20, Six Nations Under 20 Tagged , , , , , , , ,
David McCann on the rampage for Ireland against England. ©INPHO/James Crombie

Normally we’d be making plans for our coverage of the World Rugby U20 Championship which were due to take place in northern Italy at the end of June.

On 20 March 2020, World Rugby announced that the championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It promised to be an exciting competition for Ireland U20 who had all but wrapped up the 2020 Six Nations after three games, picking up the Triple Crown in their final completed match against England.

As it stood on 20th March Ireland had fixtures against France and Italy still to come. With three convincing wins Ireland were sitting at the top of the table, a win away from adding the championship to their Triple Crown.

U20 Six Nations Table at 20th March 2020

Ireland U203344315
Scotland U205213513
France U204211412
England U2042(10)311
Wales U2052(55)18
Italy U2031(3)26

You can view our writeups of Ireland’s three completed games by clicking below.

U20 Six Nations: Ireland 38 Scotland 26

U20 Six Nations. Ireland 36 Wales 22

U20 Six Nations: England 21 Ireland 39

Taking the stats from the three games above we’ll now have a look at who was performing and what the likely makeup for the 2020 World Rugby Under 20 Championship would have been or, more correctly, who we would have liked to have seen included.

Ireland U20 Players Used.

There were 29 players used over the three games, 17 from Leinster, 7 from Ulster, 3 from Munster and 1 from both Connacht and IQ Rugby.

Leinster continue to dominate the academy based program providing a staggering 59% of players to the squads. This drops to 47% in terms of minutes spent on the pitch with the Ulster and Munster players averaging more time on the pitch per player.

Sean O’Brien (Leinster), Andrew Smith (Leinster), Dan Kelly (IQ Rugby) and Oran McNulty (Connacht) played every minute of the three games but perhaps the most impressive shift was from prop Tom Clarkson (Leinster) who only dropped one minute despite playing in the most abrasive of positions.

Ireland captain David McCann (Ulster) also clocked up an impressive total, only missing out on six minutes over the three games. The top six by minutes played is below.

PlayerClubProvinceMinutes played
Sean O’BrienUCDLeinster240
Andrew SmithClontarfLeinster240
Dan KellyLoughboroughIQ Rugby240
Oran McNultyCorinthiansConnacht240
Thomas ClarksonDublin UniversityLeinster239
David McCannBanbridgeUlster234


As far as Ulster representation is concerned, it is a big jump from last season’s 10% representation, in terms of minutes on the pitch, and I like to think it would have increased further should the U20 World Rugby Championship have taken place.

We’ve been tracking Ulster player involvement over the last few seasons at this age grade, below. Normally we do this over the Six Nations and World Championship. It may be only over the three games for this season but it was starting to look like it was shaping up to be a good one. 🙁

Players in squad7
Minutes played 950
* From the 2016 World Championship squad only
** From only three 2020 U20 Six Nations Squads.

Ireland U20 Scorers

Ireland U20 scored 113 points over the three games averaging just under 38 points per game. It’s an impressive total with the Irish youngsters recording a try bonus point in every match, scoring six tries against both Scotland and England and five against Wales.

Munster, by virtue of the boot of Jack Crowley, lead the way as the highest scoring province. The Cork Constitution out half clocked up 36 points from 2 tries, 10 conversions and 2 penalties.

Thomas Ahern, also Munster, was the second the second highest scorer, and leading try scorer, with 3 tries out of a team total of 17. The forwards contributed 8 tries (47%) and the backs crossed for 9 (53%). This is a reversal on last season where the forwards accounted for 56% of the tries and while this seasons figures are only over three games I do think it is indicative of a subtle shift towards back play.

Jack CrowleyCork ConMunster210236
Thomas AhernShannonMunster30015
Mark HernanLansdowneLeinster20010
Andrew SmithClontarfLeinster20010
Thomas ClarksonDublin UniversityLeinster1005
Alex SorokaDublin UniversityLeinster1005
Lewis FinlayMaloneUlster1005
Hayden HydeBallynahinchUlster1005
Dan KellyLoughboroughIQ Rugby1005
Ethan McIlroyQueen’s UniversityUlster1005
John McKeeOld BelvedereLeinster1005
Max O’ReillyDublin UniversityLeinster1005
Tim CorkeryLansdowneLeinster0102
2020 Six Nations. Ireland U20 Points Scorers

We have a few extra categories to look at this season thanks to more stats sheets being released by the Six Nations. There is an overwhelming amount of information available now and we’ve documented eleven of them along with our usual scores and minutes played but we are only looking at two additional ones in detail. The two we chose to look at were meters made and tackles completed.

Ireland U20 Metres Made

Ireland made a total of 2303 metres with the ball in hand over the three games giving an average of 768 metres per game.

Oran McNulty clocked up 238 metres in his three games but special mention goes to McCann, Ahern and O’Brien who made the hard yards up front.

Oran McNultyCorinthiansConnacht238
Andrew SmithClontarfLeinster218
David McCannBanbridgeUlster206
Jack CrowleyCork ConMunster183
Thomas AhernShannonMunster172
Sean O’BrienUCDLeinster153
2020 Six Nations. Ireland U20 Players Meters Made

The forwards accounted for a total of 1146 metres (49.8%) and the backs clocked up 1157 (50.2%). The young fit forwards do tend to be more heavily involved at this level, but that is still a lot of metres made up front. As I said earlier there was a subtle shift towards more back play but Ireland’s game is still focused on their hard working pack.

Ireland U20 Tackles Completed

Ireland competed 558 tackles over the three games, an average of 186 per game.

Sean O’Brien was well in front with an average of 21 completed tackles per game, McCann comes in second with an average of 16 per game but the shout out goes to John McKee (Leinster) who’s 33 completed tackles in limited game time is equivalent to an average of 29 per game!

Sean O’BrienUCDLeinster633
David McCannBanbridgeUlster483
Thomas ClarksonDublin UniversityLeinster392
Thomas AhernShannonMunster354
Brian DeenyClontarfLeinster344
John McKeeOld BelvedereLeinster333
2020 Six Nations. Ireland U20 Players Tackles Made

As you would expect, the forwards completed the bulk of the tackles with a total of 381 (68%) over the game, this was twice as many as the backs who completed 177 (32%).

However when you combine the meters made and tackles completed that is a phenomenal amount of involvement from O’Brien and McCann, even for back row players.

We’ll wait and see if the Six Nations is completed before dishing out any awards but those two are ticking all the boxes for player of the season.

Our picks on next page > >

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