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New coach, new faces as U20s go to Birr hoping to build continuity from Six Nations

Flanker Paul Boyle is the latest to take over captaincy of the age grade side as they head for Georgia.

AN IRELAND U20 squad with new faces, new leaders but no shortage of captaincy material will assemble in Birr today for a training camp ahead of the forthcoming World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia.

Head coach Peter Malone was promoted to his new postwith haste in March after Connacht nudged Nigel Carolan into their senior coaching setup for the post-Pat Lam era. But the ability to put an existing member of the coaching staff into the hot seat allows for a level of continuity in a squad without any members of last year’s successful U20 World Cup run.

“Delighted and honoured,” Malone says after pulling on his IRFU polo as head coach in the offices of shirt sponsors PWC.

“I was delighted to work with Nigel, I think I learned a lot off him as well. It was great to work with him for 18 months. And now delighted to get the chance to out my stamp on it over the next month and a half, see how we get on.”

Peter Malone Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Munster elite player development manager added:

“I don’t think we want to revamp everything mid season, we want to keep a bit of continuity which we have done. Tweak a few small things and Kieran (Campbell) to come in and add his value to the backs, which I’m sure he will.”

With Campbell taking charge of the backs and defence, Malone will continue to oversee the line-out and attacking structures with Conor Twomey looking after scrum and breakdown.

Before the coaching staff get to shaping the gameplan in Offaly today, their first task was to name a captain. It’s a post that Ireland U20s have had plenty of practice filling this year with Jack Kelly, Cillian Gallagher and Calvin Nash all sustaining injuries while wearing the metaphorical armband.

Wexford native Paul Boyle has bravely accepted the honour this time around, and quickly began taking the necessary precautions.

“I got the call (Tuesday), I was driving my car back to Dublin. I had a buddy in the car beside me. I had to pull over,  fast, because I’ll tell ya it was a surprise to me,” joked Boyle.

Paul Boyle Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I was delighted to get it and the lads that have captained the team so far have experience and they’ll be able to help me along the way.”

Boyle’s big message to the squad this week will be echoed by his coaches. With a host of U19-qualified players in the group and stand-out talents like Gallagher, Bill Johnston, Jordan Larmour, Johnny McPhillips and Tommy O’Brien missing through injury, expectations are low for the nation that reached last year’s final.

“Players are selfish beings, they won’t really care about the guys that are missing,” says Malone, gearing his side up for pool matches against Italy, Scotland and New Zealand.

“They just want to make their own stamp and take their opportunity.

“For the younger guys coming in, especially the U19s (like) out-halves Angus Curtis and Conor Dean, they have the belief to go out and give this thing a crack, really own it and take their chance.

“Injuries are part and parcel of professional sport. The players who are injured have to deal with it, they’ll manage it and get back. The guys who are stepping in, they’ve have to take the opportunity because in rugby that’s where opportunity comes from that injury that opens the door for you.”

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