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U20 title charge left in limbo as Ireland await call on France fixture

Noel McNamara’s men have every right to expect their match to be called off, but can’t afford to stop preparing to face France.

Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND’S SENIOR SIDE may have taken the bit from between their teeth and put a title chase on ice after yesterday’s postponements.

Yet Noel McNamara’s U20 squad, whose 100% return from their opening three matches mean they are just one win away from securing the Championship, must keep along their trajectory for the time-being as their match remains (however temporarily) in place as they lace up for training today.

The age grade match was mentioned in yesterday’s Six Nations statement postponing Ireland’s senior match, but only so far as saying a decision had not yet been reached.

At this stage, the delay or postponement will either serve as a preparation hiccup or complete momentum collapse for an Irish side that looked such an irresistible force when they ripped England apart last time out.

“I think the word that I would use is disappointing, but it’s no more than that,” said head coach Noel McNamara yesterday, his players given a reprieve from media duty as the schedule was left up in the air.

“It’s disappointing because I think we can continue to get better. We certainly had momentum coming out of those first three games. We are not in control of it, so therefore you can’t lose energy.”

There is any amount of mental gymnastics that could be put into trying figure a work-around for rugby’s fixture list. U20 level is among the trickier prospects right now.

For starters, the summer’s U20 World Cup is slated for Calvisano – currently in quarantine over Covid-19 – while the nature of U20 level means a host of players may well be taken up by their provinces by early next season.

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McNamara is more concerned with the time requirements that third-level exams will present his players in May, but adds:

“We are certainly very hopeful that it will be completed before the start of the new season because we would like to see the lads get an opportunity to finish off this Championship and equally we would like to see them step up at the start of the season.”

A considerable contingent of McNamara’s squad will hope to be back in green much sooner than that, with U19 internationals set for April on these shores against France. Outside of that, though, the Clare man is keen to see his players return to their clubs to play more senior rugby.

“Once we get final confirmation then the players will be released and will go back to their provinces.

“For many of them, they will go back into playing AIL. That’s a crucial part of our player development pathway as well.

“It is coming to the business end of that competition, teams are involved in play-offs, there are tight battles at the other end of the table as well.

“They are continue to get a really good level of rugby where they are tested in lots of different ways.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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