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McNamara braced for 'huge test' to salvage a win against improving Georgia

After two pool defeats, Ireland U20 need a win to get into the 5th to 8th place play-offs in France.

Out-half Conor Dean in action against South Africa.
Out-half Conor Dean in action against South Africa.
Image: Iconsport/INPHO

John Fallon reports from Narbonne

IRELAND COACH NOEL McNamara is hopeful that his men can close out a first win in the World Rugby U20 Championship when they take on Georgia in Narbonne this evening (5.30pm Irish time).

His side had a winning hand in their grasp against hosts France and South Africa but were unable to close the deal and now need to win tonight to prevent a second season in a row where Ireland have not been victorious in a pool game.

Victory tonight will push them into a position to compete for 5th to 8th place in the two concluding rounds next week and give them a better seeding for next year’s tournament which is likely to take place in Argentina.

But McNamara knows that Ireland face a big test against an improving Georgia side.

I have experience of some really tight ones in these. I even lost a kicking competition against them in an U18 tournament before. We know what’s coming.

“Georgia have improved down through the years. They are really keen to prove that they deserve a place, even moving into the senior Six Nations. They have got a massive point to prove. These guys are working really hard to make that happen.

“We have prepared well. Georgia are a really good side. We have seen them against France, one of the tournament favourites, and they denied them a bonus point. It’s going to be a huge test again.”

He has made six changes to the side, with Peter Sylvester coming back into the side at full-back, while Peter O’Sullivan makes his first appearance having been brought out from Ireland to replace the injured Dan Hurley.

The only other change to the backs sees Hugh O’Sullivan again swap the scrum-half role with Jonny Stewart.

Up front, the latest protégé to come out of Currow in Co Kerry, Jack Daly, will make his U-20 debut in a back row which sees Aaron Hall, capped by Ulster last autumn, take over from provincial teammate Joe Dunleavy.

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Matthew Dalton has recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in the opening night loss to France to come back into the side in the second row.

Included among the replacements and who could make his Irish debut is Kuba Wojtkowicz, a Polish native who started playing rugby when he moved as a child with his family to Cavan and whose career as a prop was nurtured in Sligo Grammar School and Sligo RFC.

Ireland: P Sylvester (Munster); P Sullivan (Leinster), T O’Brien (Leinster), J Hume (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster); C Dean (Leinster), H O’Sullivan (Leinster); J Duggan (Leinster), D Barron (Munster), J Aungier (Leinster); M Dalton (Ulster), J Dunne (Leinster); A Hall (Ulster), J Daly (Munster), C Doris (Leinster) (C).

Replacements: D Sheehan (Leinster), B O’Connor (Munster), J Wojtkowicz (Connacht), C Daly (Leinster), M Agnew (Ulster), J Stewart (Ulster), H Byrne (Leinster), J McCarthy (Munster).

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