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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 29 May, 2020

Impressive Australia offer Ireland U20 another chance to flex

Both sides have retained most of their starters after excellent wins on day one.

Josh Wycherley and John Hodnett celebrate on Tuesday.
Josh Wycherley and John Hodnett celebrate on Tuesday.
Image: Pablo Gasparini/INPHO

THE TABLE IS set for another bun fight.

They tend to veer sharply to the chaotic side, these high-grade U20 contests. Leads are rarely safe, deficits can’t be deep enough and the momentum myth struggles to take hold.

Plenty of thought and effort is put in on the defensive side, but at this level attacking talent is extremely difficult to rein in. On day one, Ireland scored six tries against their near and dear neighbours, the Junior Wallabies ran in five against a stubborn Italian outfit.

With fatigue an added consideration on day two, the whitewash in Santa Fe will see plenty more traffic when Ireland take on Australia in today’s early kick-off (14.30 Irish time, eir Sport) at the World Rugby U20 Championship. Ireland’s status as deserved Grand Slam champions was heavily underlined by the success over England. And yet, with two fresh injury blows unveiled yesterday, their run continues to feel like an uphill one.

Progress has been on a steep upward curve too.

Remarkably enough given their travails at last summer’s tournament in France, when only a final-day win over Japan kept them from finishing dead last, Noel McNamara’s men are in the hunt for an eighth win on the trot.

More importantly, a second victory in this tournament’s pool of death would mark the first time since 2016 – ahead of a run to that summer’s final – that Ireland have opened with back-to-back wins. Of course, the head coach has always stressed that development takes precedence over results for the players under his watch at this level. But there’s no harm in fueling the feelgood factor with a few wins along the way.

This is no ordinary Australia U20 side standing in Ireland’s way. Last month they recorded just a second ever win – a 24-0 shut-out no less – over their Kiwi counterparts to claim the Oceania U20 title and they will not lack confidence when taking on the Six Nations champions.

While many sides have rung in a raft of changes, Ireland and Australia have backed their players’ willingness and ability to endure a second match in four days. Ireland retain 13 starters, with two enforced changes, while the Junior Wallabies have kept their starting XV in place.

You might wonder, with England ahead for them, whether they originally felt Ireland might be their chance to rest and rotate. Captain Fraser McReight will again lead the green and gold in every sense, his dynamism forms the core of Australia’s approach as he is a powerful presence in the carry and at the breakdown.

There is stardust among the back-line with the excellent Noah Lolesio at 12 working in tandem with pacy playmaker Will Harrison. Former Dundalk RFC man Michael McDonald again runs out as scrum-half against the country he left as a 13-year-old.

FRP_9325 Australia had to work before running out victors against Italy. Source: FRANCO PEREGO

Ireland are not short on scrum-halves, but the loss of Cork Con star Sean French and fullback Iwan Hughes to injury mean they are light on outside backs today with replacement call-ups Max O’Reilly and Aaron O’Sullivan not available until Wednesday’s final pool match against Italy.

Replacements Cormac Foley and Colm Reilly are in theory back-up 9s  and Ben Healy came on to good effect at out-half against England. Fortunately, there is a wealth of positional flexibility through the back-line. Foley was a schoolboy centre, Angus Kernohan can play across the back-line and starting 10 Jake Flannery ran as a fullback throughout the Six Nations.

Their ability to adapt, to roll with the punches and find a way will once again be put under scrutiny today, but this Ireland squad have proven themselves perfectly at home in such chaotic situations.


15. Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster)
14. Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster)
12. Stewart Moore (Malone/Ulster)
11. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster)
10. Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
9. Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)

1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster)
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster)
4. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (Capt)
5. Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
6. David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster)
7. Ronan Watters (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
8. John Hodnett (UCC/Munster)


16. John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
17. Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster)
18. Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster)
19. Declan Adamson (Clontarf/Leinster)
20. Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht)
22. Ciaran Booth (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)
23. Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)
24. Colm Reilly (Buccaneers/Connacht)
25. Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster)
26. Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)


15. Isaac Lucas (Sunnybank)
14. Triston Reilly (Randwick)
13. Semisi Tupou (Box Hill)
12. Noah Lolesio (Tuggeranong Vikings)
11. Mark Nawaqanitawase (Eastwood)
10. Will Harrison (Randwick)
9. Michael McDonald (Palmyra)

1. Angus Bell (Sydney University)
2. Lachlan Lonergan (Tuggeranong Vikings)
3. Josh Nasser (University of Queensland)
4. Michael Wood (Brothers)
5. Trevor Hosea (Harlequins Rugby Club)
6. Harry Wilson (Brothers)
7. Fraser McReight (Brothers) (Capt).
8. Will Harris (Eastern Suburbs)


16. Joe Cotton (Wests Bulldogs)
17. Bo Abra (Eastern Suburbs)
18. Darcy Breen (Sydney University)
19. Rhys Van Nek, (Easts)
20. Esei Ha’angana (Melbourne Unicorns)
21. Pat Tafa (Northern Suburbs)
22. Nick Frost (Queanbeyan Whites)
23. Carlo Tizzano (University of Western Australia)
24. Henry Robertson (Sydney University)
25. Ben Donaldson (Randwick)
26. Sione Tui (Melbourne Unicorns)
27. Kye Oates (University of Queensland)
28. Joey Walton (Gordon)

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Sean Farrell

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