IRELAND U20 TEAM kick off their Junior World Championship campaign against France in the early hours of Monday morning [6:35am kick-off].
Ireland coach Mick Ruddock has made a number of squad changes following a fourth place Six Nations finish. His young charges struggled away to a monstrous England side but pushed eventual winners France all the way before losing 23-13 after late scores and a TMO decision that went against them.
Ruddock says players like Ryan Foley [Cork Con. and Munster] and Craig Trenier [Terenure and Leinster] have earned their squad inclusions after impressing in May’s trial match and a friendly fixture with Scotland. He acknowledges, too, that he has brought in a number of players to bring some bulk to the Irish pack.
“It’s not just about size; you want footballing ability too. But, if you’re a big fella and a good rugby player too — particularly up front, given the physicality of the French and Welsh pack — hopefully that will make the difference. We felt we were out-muscled in the previous outings against them.”
Ruddock recalls that the French scored a pushover maul from a driving line-out during their Six Nations victory over his side. Extra bulk, he reasons, is needed to counter the French scrum and maul. “When we do get our hands on the ball and play some rugby we felt we acquitted ourselves very well and asked a lot of questions of the French. Those [squad] changes will hopefully make the difference.”
Ireland used their warm-up game against Scotland with the French game in mind. “We didn’t want to be disrespectful to Scotland,” he said, “but we used that game as a dress rehearsal. It went reasonably well. We’ve still got some work to do but the lads know what is expected of them for the French game.”
The underwhelming nature of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign, added to injuries to Adam Byrne, Dan Leavy and Sean O’Brien, mean Ruddock’s side travel without much fanfare or hype. “It’s a very capable squad and we’ve got high hopes for them,” Ruddock countered.
We’ve had a very good record in the last few World Cups of taking scalps of big sides. What we have to do is go out with the same mindset — we’ve beaten South Africa and Australia in our first games.
“We’ve beaten England and France previously in World Cups. That’s the sort of standards we are looking for. We’ve got France first up and if we can beat them, anything can happen. If we don’t win that it’ll be a tough tournament but we feel we have every chance.”
Ireland play France at 6:35am on Monday morning with TG4 providing live coverage.