Carolan’s talented U20s need clinical edge to get Six Nations bid back on track

IT’S TIGHT AT the top of the U20 Six Nations, and it’s going to take a win on the road in Wales this evening for Nigel Carolan’s Ireland side to get their title bid back on track [KO 19.45, RTÉ 2].

Defeat to England in Donnybrook two weekends ago stung, particularly as Ireland left so many scoring chances behind in the first half.

From knock-ons over the line to forward passes with overlaps waiting, Carolan’s talented group rued their profligacy after a 19-14 loss.

“That was one of the biggest reasons why we lost, we didn’t take our chances,” admits out-half Ross Byrne, whose performances have been superb in this championship so far.

That hasn’t been an issue for this exciting group of players, with Byrne and captain Nick McCarthy providing fine direction as the halfback pairing. Outside them, centres Sam Arnold and Garry Ringrose have been extremely effective, the latter showing all of his attacking quality against England after the former has starred in the win over France.

Arnold made his senior Ulster debut last weekend as the U20s had a break weekend, and the Exiles product impressed off the bench against the Dragons.

“It was great for Sammy getting his first cap for Ulster, hopefully that will up his confidence and he can push on again,” says Byrne.

“It’s great having him and Garry there, they’re a great balance. I mean obviously Garry’s a little bit slighter and Sammy brings more power. Gary has the pace and the footwork and they are both excellent passers as well, so it makes my job a lot easier.

Byrne has been a composed presence at out-half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They are both great communicators, which is always a great help. A lot of the time it’s just about giving them the ball and they will create something out of nothing. It makes me look good sometimes.”

Positives aside, Byrne admits the review of the England game was not an easy process, even if it was necessary to learn from their shortcomings in that game.

A bunch of fresh faces will help as Ireland look to return to winning ways in Colwyn Bay this evening, Ciarán Gaffney starting his first game of the championship after recovering from a hamstring problem.

His Connacht teammate Cian Romaine adds bulk and power to the second row, while Nick Timoney and Conor Oliver of St. Mary’s are intelligent back row operators.

Wales had a big opening day success against England with a 21-15 win at Parc Eirias, before defeat away to Scotland and then a heavier loss on the road to France. Back at their Colwyn Bay stronghold, they’ll be a different proposition.

“They have a few very good players,” says Byrne. “Their seven [Ollie Griffiths] is probably their go-to guy in defence and attack. They look for him to do something big or a big play. They do move the ball around as well but they rely on their pack a lot.”

Ireland U20s to face Wales:

15. Billy Dardis (UCD/ Leinster)
14. Ciaran Gaffney (Galwegians/Connacht)
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
12. Sam Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
11. Stephen Fitzgerald (Shannon/Munster)
10. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
9. Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster) (captain)

1. Jeremy Loughman (UCD/Leinster)
2. Zack McCall (QUB/Ulster)
3. Oisin Heffernan (Terenure/Leinster)
4. Cian Romaine (Buccaneers/Connacht)
5. Josh Murphy (UCD/Leinster)
6. Nick Timoney (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
7. Conor Oliver (St. Mary’s/ Leinster)
8. Lorcan Dow (QUB/Ulster)


16. Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster)
17. Andrew Porter (UCD/ Leinster)
18. Conan O’Donnell (Sligo/NUIG/Connacht)
19. David O’Connor (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
20. Stephen McVeigh (Buccaneers/Connacht)
21. Conor Young (QUB/Ulster)
22. Joey Carbery (UCD/Leinster)
23. Jacob Stockdale (QUB/Ulster)

– Originally published at 7.30, updated at 17.30.

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