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6 U20s who impressed during Ireland v New Zealand

We’ve picked three Irish players who put in a promising shift against the best team in the world.

IRELAND UNDER 20s were denied a second consecutive trip to the World Cup semi-finals as they fell to a 25 – 3 defeat to New Zealand.

Facing players with Super Rugby pedigree and dealing with the physical test of playing a third game in eight short days, it was always going to be a tough ask for Nigel Carolan’s side to come away with a win. Here, we wipe away the tears of disappointment and look forward to a semi-final for fifth place against Wales on Monday by picking out half a dozen young players who impressed tonight.

Josh Murphy tackled by James Blackwell and Ricky Riccitelli Murphy tackled by James Blackwell and Ricky Riccitelli Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Josh Murphy

Just when you think Leinster and Ireland have their J Murphy back row quota filled for about a decade, the Enniscorthy man continues his impressive rate of progress.

The blindside was a powerhouse for Ireland against the sport’s most formidable foe, carrying with purpose to give Ireland a platform to attack in the first half and tackling tirelessly to stop an onslaught becoming a whitewash after the break.

Akira Ioane

Oisin Heffernan tackles Akira Ioane Akira Ioane runs at one of Ireland's biggest men, Oisin Heffernan. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Unfortunately for Ireland, the best back row on the park was wearing black. Ioane has been a shining light in an otherwise dispiriting season for the Auckland Blues and he led the way for his country tonight, making yards with every tackle and ensuring Irish defenders were forced to double up to make sure he went to ground.

Sean McNulty

Initially named on the bench behind Zach McCall, McNulty put in another impressive shift at hooker after being a key component of the dogged win over Scotland.

Sean McNulty tackled by Akira Ioane Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

For the most part, the Munster native’s lineout throwing was good, but he continued to display his excellent breakdown work and also contributed a solidified scrum, most evident when Ireland’s pack forced a penalty in the second half.

Tevita Li

Another Auckland Blue with Super Rugby experience, Li made his two tries look straightforward tonight. However his sheer presence can destabilise defences as he has pace and power to burn.

Roy Moloney tackles Tevita Li Moloney tackles Tevita Li Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Even from a standing start, Li is hard work to put down. Pity flanker Rory Moloney, who found himself getting dragged along the turf after going low in a one-on-one situation. The Buccaneers man held on as long as he could, but support did not arrive and Li simply danced clear.

Sam Arnold

While the attention and headlines are understandably commanded by Garry Ringrose, his partner in midfield was again providing the foil.

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Sam Arnold and Josh Murphy tackle Nathaniel Apa Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

The pressure put on the 13 channel meant the Ulster centre was forced to kick more than he was comfortably with, but all in all, this was another solid display and even against New Zealand, his physicality and acceleration stood out.

Joshua Goodhue

With Ireland hanging on to New Zealand’s coat-tails in the first half it seemed the Kiwi game was crying out for a touch more focus on the set-piece. While his team continually went wide early, Goodhue was making light work of his opposite numbers in the second row and would have relished the chance to take on Ireland up front more often.

David O'Connor competes with Joshua Goodhue Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Instead, New Zealand continued looking for his twin brother Jack (both turn 20 on Saturday) in the centre, so although they did pull clear and win convincingly, it was without a bonus point.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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