AS EXCITING AS the U20 Six Nations have been in recent years, success has eluded Irish teams since 2010.
Tonight in the Stade Chaban-Delmas [KO: 8pm], the next batch of Irish underage players will look to put that right, among them Ulster scrum-half Jonny Stewart.
Stewart was part of last year’s crop which, despite opening with three wins, suffered back-to-back losses to Wales and tournament winners England to finish a distant fourth, some 14 points behind the champions.
That’s a situation Stewart hopes to put right this season but, as exciting as his supporting cast might be, the youngster feels that brains, not brawn will be key to Ireland’s success.
“There’s some real talent there,” he said.
“Even some U19s in that team. From playing with them, they know their stuff and it’s quite a smart backline.
That’s what we’re going to try to base ourselves on in this campaign – trying to be the smartest team out there.
“We want to work in a smart way and try to outwit other teams if we can.
“I think we’ve really brought a lot more detail this year and we’ve nailed down our detail early. We’ve had a couple more camps this year than we did last year by this time of the year, so that will be helpful going into the Six Nations.
“We’re going to work to be the smartest team taking to the pitch every week and that’s not just the halfbacks or the big-game players; it’s one to 15 and everyone doing their job.”
Having recently started for Ulster against Leinster at the RDS, Stewart definitely sees himself as someone who can assist captain Tommy O’Brien in a leadership role.
“As you’re saying, I’d like to at least give a couple of words of advice to the younger guys if they’re nervous or whatever, and try to come across as a leader in the group, especially on the pitch.
We do have a leadership group and I’m in that, a group of four or five of us who have a few words off the pitch and on the pitch we try to get sessions to start from the beginning at a really high quality and high tempo.
“It’s a group effort and if everyone buys in, we’ll really benefit.”
15. Michael Silvester (Dublin University/Leinster)
14. Peter Sullivan (Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
13. David McCarthy (Garryowen/Munster)
12. Tommy O’Brien (UCD RFC/Leinster) (captain)
11. James McCarthy (UL Bohemian/Munster)
10. Harry Byrne (UCD RFC/Leinster)
9. Jonny Stewart (Queen’s University RFC/Ulster)
1. Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster)
2. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne FC/ Leinster)
3. Jack Aungier (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster)
4. Cormac Daly (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
5. Jack Dunne (Dublin University FC/Leinster)
6. Matthew Dalton (Malone RFC/Ulster)
7. Aaron Hall (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
8. Jack O’Sullivan (UCC RFC/Munster)
16. Diarmuid Barron (Garryowen FC/Munster)
17. James French (UCC RFC/Munster)
18.Tom O’Toole (Banbridge RFC/Ulster)
19. Ronan Coffey (Shannon RFC/Munster)
20. Sean Masterson (Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
21. Hugh O’Sullivan (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
22. Angus Curtis (Queen’s University RFC/Ulster)
23. Angus Kernohan (Ballymena RFC/Ulster)
15. C Laporte
14. I Etcheverry
13. P-L Barassi
12. A Vincent
11. M Marty
10. R Ntamack
9. A Coville (captain)
1. H Kilingar
2. M Lamothe
3. D Brennan
4. T Lavult
5. K Geraci
6. C Woki
7. I Diallo
8. M Lemardelet
16. L Peyresblanques
17. U Boniface
18. D Bamba
19. A Roussel
20. B Heguy
21. J Gimbert
22. L Carbonel
23. P Boudehent.
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