Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
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Shanagolden hedge their money on Ireland U20 star Betts
Ben Betts is one of the XV to take on the Baby blacks this afternoon.

IT’S ONE OF the youngest clubs in the country but no place will be as proud as Shanagolden in Co Limerick today if one of their own plays his part in the Irish U20s claiming their place in history.

Ben Betts is a product of Estuary RFC, a tiny club formed in 2005 and which mainly plays just mini-rugby to cater for the kids around Shanagolden and Newcastle West, and will today line out at tighthead prop as Nigel Carolan’s U-20s bid to become the first Irish men’s side to defeat New Zealand at any grade of rugby.

Betts does not come from a rugby background but like a lot of the kids in the area, he rambled down eight or nine years ago to give the sport a go.

Progress was quick. Young Munster spotted him and he is currently in the Munster sub-academy and the former Tarbert Comprehensive student hasn’t looked back.

“I started roughly around 11 or 12 with Shannon Estuary back home in Shanagolden in County Limerick. It’s not far from Tarbert, but it is not really a big club, I don’t think they have ever had a senior side.

“But they are trying to develop it as much as they can. It’s mostly minis. I eventually moved into Young Munsters in the city where I have been since.

“This year I have been lucky enough to get nine AIL appearances so that was brilliant, and winning the Junior Cup was another great experience,” said Betts, who is studying English and History at UL.

He was drafted in early on Tuesday night in the 26-25 win over Wales when Conor Kenny suffered a shoulder injury after just three minutes which ended his tournament.

Betts settled in quickly and knows that another big display today against the reigning world champions New Zealand at Manchester City Academy Stadium (1.30pm) will bring on his career.

He says it would be some triumph if they were to succeed where all others have failed down through the decades.

“It would be unbelievable and make a bit of history, it really would be unbelievable, but we are taking a lot of confidence from the win over Wales,” said Betts.

He has been making steady progress with the Cookies and Munster and knows that a big championship here in Manchester will hasten that journey.

“I got about 10 minutes last season for the Munster A’s against Ospreys Select in Cardiff. It was a good experience and hopefully more to come.

“This tournament will bring on all players and I will definitely gain a lot of experience against teams like New Zealand and Georgia and that will definitely stand to me.

“Even from watching tournaments from two and three years ago you are seeing people on TV that are playing with their senior international side already.

“It’s amazing, the fine margins of how close you are,” he added.

Betts comes into the starting 15 in the only change to the Irish side for the clash with the champions.

Tighthead prop Kenny has returned home with a shoulder injury picked up early in that game, with Betts coming on to replace him.

Trinity’s James Bollard has been called up to the replacements, with Adam Coyle of Naas having been added to the squad in midweek following Kenny’s injury.

Coach Nigel Carolan said the players know they have the chance to make history.

“For the players it’s the one that they are going to be looking to play. We are going to hopefully take the confidence from the Wales game into this one.

“We know it is going to take an 80-minute performance if we are going to get a result against them. And therein lies the challenge, to be the first Irish team to beat a New Zealand side, that’s what we are looking forward to.”

This will be the sixth meeting between Ireland and New Zealand in this competition, and the fourth year in a row that they have met, with the Baby Blacks winning all up to now.

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