Ireland U20: Who Did What at the 2021 Six Nations

Published Categorised as 2020-21, International Rugby U20, Ireland U20, Six Nations Under 20 Tagged , , , , ,
2021 Under-20 Six Nations Championship Round 5, BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, Wales 13/7/2021Ireland vs FranceIreland's Alex Kendellen leads his team onto the pitchMandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

The 2021 U20 Six Nations were delayed until June 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. It was played on a shortened turnaround format with all teams playing their matches at Cardiff Arms Park over five rounds with 6 days between each round.

Historically, the reduced turnaround time format has been one that Ireland have struggled with, at tournaments such as the World Rugby U20 Championship, so, despite Ireland going into the competition as defending Six Nations Champions, our expectations were reduced.

In fact, they did slightly better than I expected. My expectations were they would lose the last three games but despite losing to, “The Big Two” , England and France, they did find enough in reserve to overcome a resurgent Italy and finish in third place after beating Scotland and Wales in the opening two rounds.


Sat 19 JunScotland 738Ireland
Fri 25 JunWales1240Ireland
Thu 1 JulIreland1524England
Wed 7 JulItaly2330Ireland
Tue 13 JulIreland2834France

Final Standings


Players Used

Ireland’s Head Coach Richie Murphy used 33 players throughout the tournament. We’ve put some of the key statistics in the sharable web story below but for more details you can read on below the story.

Ulster representation of 10 players and 32.1% of minutes played is up from the 2020 season’s previous high of 7 players and 26.5% minutes played, however, only three games were played in 2020. Both years were generally a higher representation for Ulster than normal. With very little rugby played over the last 18 months it’s hard to say if it’s the start or end of an upward trend.

It was also an untypically high representation for Connacht and an untypically low representation for Munster, though Munster certainly brought the quality in captain Alex Kendellen who had a monster tournament.

The minutes played, and games they started, for all the players used are shown below.

Jamie OsborneLEI5400
Harry SheridanULS5396
Alex KendellenMUN5378
Cathal FordeCON5360
Alex SorokaLEI5355
Ben MoxhamULS5354
Nathan DoakULS4307
Ronan LoughnaneLEI5306
Sam IlloLEI5294
Shane JenningsCON4286
Oisín McCormackCON4228
Mark MorrisseyLEI4222
Jude PostlethwaiteULS4201
Donnacha ByrneCON4190
Tim CorkeryLEI3175
Chris CosgraveLEI4152
Ben CarsonULS4143
Reuban CrothersULS4140
Jack BoyleLEI4137
George SaundersonULS3135
Conor McKeeULS3134
Temi LasisiLEI3126
Mark DonnellyMUN3108
Eoin de BuitléarCON5105
Daniel OkekeMUN386
Chay MullinsIQR180
James HumphreysULS269
Josh O’ConnorLEI155
Conor RankinULS247
Will ReillyLEI118
Jack KelleherMUN111
Fearghail O’DonoghueMUN15
Liam BishopIQR12


Ireland scored 151 points over the tournament with the points coming from 20 tries, including a penalty try, 12 conversions, including a penalty try conversion and 9 penalties. The conversion rate for try conversions kicked was 57.9% which would be on the low side.

Nathan Doak was the main kicker and he accumulated 48 points but the main shout out goes to Kendellen who picked up 6 tries for 30 points.

Nathan Doak18948
Alex Kendellen60030
Jamie Osborne20010
Alex Soroka20010
Eoin de Buitléar20010
Penalty Try1107
Cathal Forde1005
Sam Illo1005
Shane Jennings1005
Chris Cosgrave1005
George Saunderson1005
Daniel Okeke1005
Tim Corkery0204
James Humphreys0102
Totals include Try and Conversion from a Penalty Try

Meters and Carries

We have combined meters made and carries to show meters per carry. Meters made is still the most important with number of carries showing the amount of work done and in both cases Kendellen comes out on top.

Meters per carry is largely influenced by position played and the two wingers, Shane Jennings and Ben Moxham both covered the most ground per carry, it’s a pity Ireland’s style of play didn’t get them involved more often.

Alex Kendellen426934.6
Cathal Forde419508.4
Jamie Osborne331427.9
Harry Sheridan230474.9
Shane Jennings2252210.2
Nathan Doak195287.0
Ben Moxham1721412.3
Oisín McCormack141226.4
Ronan Loughnane126284.5
Jude Postlethwaite119186.6
Alex Soroka106224.8
Sam Illo103254.1

Tackle Success

Ireland attempted 680 tackles competing 595 and missing 85 for an average tackle success of 87%. It was another area where Kendellen excelled with a 91% success rate for the 68 tackles he attempted.

Also of note are Harry Sheridan’s efforts with the Ulster player coming in 2nd in tackles and 4th in carries despite playing out of position in the second row.

Alex Kendellen62691%
Harry Sheridan48591%
Cathal Forde46787%
Oisín McCormack40393%
Ronan Loughnane35392%
Sam Illo33294%
Alex Soroka27975%
Shane Jennings23972%
Eoin de Buitléar220100%
Reuban Crothers21388%
Jude Postlethwaite20195%
Nathan Doak20291%


We’ve devised an Oops Index to take account of some of the errors that they collect stats for. We are scoring the Oops Index as 2 points for a Turnover Conceded, 1 point for a Handling Error, 3 points for a Penalty Conceded and 5 points for a Yellow Card.

Note that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be at the top of the Oops Index as generally the more involved a player is in the game the more mistakes are likely to occur, as can be seen by the quality of the players shown below.

Alex Kendellen558039
Nathan Doak4135036
Chris Cosgrave443126
Jamie Osborne781025
Alex Soroka234019
Tim Corkery154019
Cathal Forde333018
Jude Postlethwaite023116
Shane Jennings321116
Ronan Loughnane223015
Oisín McCormack213014
Conor McKee450013

Ulster Contribution

Another new stat we’ll be looking at going forward is the Ulster Contribution which is a measure of the Ulster’s players’ actual stats compared to the expected statistics based on the percentage minutes played. For example if the were 100 tackles in a match and Ulster players accounted for 30% of the playing time we would expect Ulster players to complete 30 tackles. If they completed more than 30 they get a positive variance and if they completed less they get a negative variance.

Ulster did do better than average for points scored, thanks largely to Doak having the main kicking duties, but they were down on tries, meters made, carries and tackles. However, given that 7 of the 10 Ulster players were in an underutilised backline this is perhaps understandable.

Player of the Tournament

It’s quite a straightforward one as Munster’s Alex Kendellen excelled in almost every aspect of his play. Ireland did use a style of play that would put a lot of responsibility on the No 8 and the inside center and neither Kendellen or Cathal Forde were found wanting.

I’ve had a few gripes, in my match reports, about getting the ball out wide more often and a bit more variety in the back line would have been nice but given the circumstances of a disrupted season and a short turnaround for Coach Murphy, following the unexpected departure of Kieran Campbell, a fairly simple game plan was probably the right call, especially given the qualities of Kendellen.

The FRU Ireland Player of the Tournament

Alex Kendellen

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