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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
James Crombie/INPHO Nick McCarthy leads the team out against France in Athlone.
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Ireland's scintillating young guns can't wait to get England onto the 3G Donnybrook pitch
Ireland U20 captain Nick McCarthy is confident that his side can continue their breathtaking attacking play.

IF YOU’VE SEEN any of the Leinster Schools Cup this season then you’ll know that the new synthetic pitch at Donnybrook favours running, expansive rugby. Teams that possess fast backs who run good lines and handle the ball slickly have been running up big scores in Leinster’s old home ground and have looked damn good doing it.

That bodes well for the Ireland U20 team as they host England there this evening at 19.05.

Nigel Carolan’s men have scored eleven tries during their opening wins against Italy and France so it stands to reason that weather permitting, they could open the game up a bit tonight.

Captain Nick McCarthy agrees that the pitch should suit his side.

“I think so, we’ve got a really good backline and if we get to run teams around, we’ll be in a good spot,” McCarthy said.

“If the boys do well up front, they’ll give us a good platform to attack out wide.”

The forwards have done well so far but it’s the backs who are getting Irish rugby fans jumping out of their seats and dreaming of what the side at a 2023 home World Cup could look like.

McCarthy’s half-back partner, Ross Byrne, has made being in total control look effortless while Billy Dardis and Garry Ringrose have consistently made inroads in opposition defences.

McCarthy is wary of the side trying to play too much rugby at times but he doesn’t what to blunt his team’s razor-sharp attacking instinct either.

“For us as players, we were getting good reward out of playing with the ball a lot [against France], but then I think there was a time when we needed to realise that we could turn them a bit, play a bit more with our kicking game,” McCarthy said.

“We maybe overplayed it a bit, but having said that, once or twice if the extra pass did go to hand, we would have been away as well. We don’t want to take that away, it’s what we’re good at doing, playing running rugby. We don’t want to take it away too much, but it definitely comes down to the halfbacks. If we’re smart about it, we can really boss the game and put the ball into the right places.”

England are the traditional powerhouses at the U20 grade, having won three of the last four Six Nations championships. However, with the red rose losing to Wales on the opening night Ireland know a win at Donnybrook will put them in a great position to win the title outright at the very least.

McCarthy says his side will respect the challenge England pose but they won’t fear it.

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“I guess England are always traditionally a massive, physical side and you really have to stand up to them in that,” McCarthy said.

“You can’t give them too much respect, because I think at times teams might get a bit scared of them even just because they’re such a big side. I think it’s just important that we get our defence right. As you saw in the French game, our attack is in a good place so if we get that defence right, we’ll be in a good place.”

England bounced back from their round one defeat with an emphatic 61-0 win over Italy but the Ireland captain said his side are probably better served studying their opening game rather than their huge victory.

“They put a big score on them [Italy], so we don’t want to look at that too much!,” McCarthy laughed.

“Wales did really well against them, fronted up physically and got off the line in defence to put them under pressure. I think we can match Wales in that sense and it’ll definitely help.”

Ireland U20s v England

15. Billy Dardis (UCD/ Leinster)
14. Jack Owens (QUB/ Ulster)
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/ Leinster)
12. Sam Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
11. Stephen Fitzgerald (Shannon/ Munster)
10. Ross Byrne (UCD / Leinster)
9. Nick McCarthy (UCD/ Leinster) (Capt)

1. Jeremy Loughman (UCD / Leinster)
2. Zack McCall (QUB/Ulster)
3. Oisin Heffernan (Terenure/Leinster)
4. David O’Connor (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
5. Alex Thompson (QUB/Ulster)
6. Josh Murphy (UCD/Leinster)
7. Rory Moloney (Buccaneers/Connacht)
8. Lorcan Dow (QUB/Ulster)

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