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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Superb Ireland U20 tackles stifle Joseph before French star shows fair play

The 18-year-old France number eight was clearly targeted by Noel McNamara’s charges.

NOEL MCNAMARA’S IRELAND U20s were clearly well prepared to deal with the major threat of France number eight Jordan Joseph on Friday night in Cork.

CCJJ Liam Turner and Craig Casey tackle Joseph.

The 115kg powerhouse is hard to miss but Ireland did a superb job in managing his ball-carrying ability as a 31-29 victory secured their Six Nations trophy and teed them up for a Grand Slam shot against Wales this Friday in Colwyn Bay.

18-year-old Joseph – who already has nine senior appearances for Racing 92 – made 47 metres in his 12 carries, although around 15 metres of that total came from running a support line off a Louis Carbonel linebreak.

That’s not to diminish the wonderkid’s work-rate off the ball or his subsequent try-scoring offload, but Ireland managed Joseph impressively at Musgrave Park.

Ireland brought a consistently low tackle focus when defending against Joseph, as we see for his very first carry of the evening below.

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A linebreak has France firmly on the front foot here as Joseph arrives to carry but Ireland inside centre Seán French lines the French number eight up early and drops low into the tackle, grounding Joseph and allowing John Hodnett to attempt to make a turnover.

French – who came into the team to replace injured captain David Hawkshaw – isn’t a small player himself, standing at 6ft 2ins, so the effort to get this low is evident but he’s sticking to Ireland’s pre-agreed tactics around Joseph.

Later in the first half, we see out-half Ben Healy – who was a late inclusion in the starting team due to Harry Byrne being ruled out – doing something similar in this tackle on Joseph.

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Again, Healy dips in low on Joseph, focusing on getting as firm a wrap of his arms as possible, taking out the big Frenchman’s leg drive immediately. 

And again, Joseph is rapidly put to ground, with outside centre Liam Turner competeing at the breakdown this time to slow down the French possession.

Ireland did tackle high on Joseph at times, particularly when they put more than one defender into the tackle on him, but it was a little surprising that the most momentum-shifting hit on the French talisman came from the smallest Irish player on the pitch.

76kg scrum-half Craig Casey, who was superb for McNamara’s side before being forced off injured in the 6th minute, found himself defending in front of Joseph as the number eight carried off Carbonel just before half-time.

With the French pushing for a score that would have stretched their lead at the break, Casey stepped up with force.

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Joseph initially bumps Casey as the scrum-half enters the tackle up high first time around, with Turner lending a shoulder on the inside to slow the France back row.

But the tenacious Casey comes back strongly for a second bite as Turner slows Joseph, with the Shannon RFC halfback dipping to Joseph’s thighs, driving his right shoulder into the Frenchman’s midriff, and determinedly pumping his legs upfield to win the contest.

It’s a statement moment from Casey and Ireland, with the French producing a handling error three phases later in the face of the staunch defence.

Ireland’s attack also flourished in this game, with their three tries helping them towards victory, and Casey played an integral part in the third of those scores just before he departed injured.

A Healy linebreak from Charlie Ryan’s sharp link pass puts Ireland into a superb attacking position, with Casey picking and sniping to the left of the ruck for a second bust.

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Casey goes close to scoring himself here, but Quentin Delord and Joseph do just enough to prevent him from dotting down.

The Ireland scrum-half is injured badly in the tackle but still turns to present the ball back on his own team’s side, rather than selfishly attempting to finish when there is no clear space to do so.

As Ireland recycle and carry to the left through Hodnett, Joseph realises Casey is in pain on the ground and proceeds to show notable selflessness.

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Joseph gets back to his feet and grabs the trapped Casey by his arm, with France second row Adrien Warrion moving to take his weight off the Ireland scrum-half, before Joseph drags him away from the ruck.

Joseph’s concern for an injured opposition player is remarkable, particularly given that his own team are desperately trying to defend their tryline. 

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Joseph deposits Casey in the in-goal area [white above] before rejoining the French defence, only for Ireland replacement loosehead Callum Reid to score with a pick and drive on the other side of the ruck.

Whether Joseph’s actions are medically advisable is up for debate, but his concern for Casey is symbolic of the purity of U20s rugby, which is always enjoyable to watch.

There is still an element of naivety on display, although that is so often an enjoyable element of the rugby as it leads to more open games and players being willing to take arisks.

Joseph’s actions, even after a frustrating evening of running at the determined Irish defence, were certainly appreciated by many of the Irish supporters.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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