McNamara speaks to his players after the loss to Australia. Pablo Gasparini/INPHO
U20 World Cup

Ireland U20s patched up and pushing for semi-final place

A big bonus point win over Italy would keep semi-final hopes alive, but the Azzurrini will not be easily swatted aside.

NOTHING ABOUT A an U20 World Cup schedule ever suggests it’s going to be handy going. But even accounting for how tough it is to squeeze five matches into a 19-day stretch, the injury toll for Grand Slam champions Ireland feels particularly punitive.

True enough, they lost a fair chunk of that talent core before a ball was kicked in Argentina. But as they head into this afternoon’s pool closer against Italy (kick-off 14.30 Irish time, eir Sport) the list of wounded absentees stands at 11. Far bigger nations than this would shudder at those two slim figures.

Of that number, only back row Ronan Watters still holds out hope of featuring in the playoff stages of the World Rugby U20 Championship next week. The rest are safe at home and eyeing the road to recovery as a means of helping their province.

The loss of John Hodnett to knee injury means the back row that started the Six Nations has completely fallen away. So has the 10-12 axis, the replacement 12 Sean French, wing Conor McPhillips and replacement second row Brian Deeny. Ulster backs Iwan Hughes and Stewart Moore did not feature in the spring Championship, but started in Santa Fe before being forced to take an early holiday.

Still, this level is all about the introduction of fresh faces, right? And injury brings four new names, as yet uncapped at U20 level, into Ireland’s replacements today – James Ryan’s younger brother David and his fellow Leinster flyer Aaron O’Sullivan among them.

With well-earned rests (at least from starting roles) given to captain Charlie Ryan, Craig Casey and Dylan Tierney-Martin it falls to centre Liam Turner, one of the last men standing from the famous February win over England, to captain the team against a tough Italian outfit.

Liam Turner Liam Turner will lead Ireland today. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland won’t need to dig as far back as their hard-fought, though clinically executed, Six Nations win over the Azzurrini to find cause for caution. On Saturday, Italy went close to an all-time shock before England clawed out a nervy 24-23 win. Josh Hodge’s late penalty was enough to avoid defeat, but Italy’s effort was enough to keep England out of the semi-final stage for just a second time in 12 years.

Head coach Fabio Roselli has made six changes to his starting XV after their exertions.
Most eye-catching is the change of half-backs with Paolo Garbisi returning in place of Giacomo de Re at out-half and Lorenzo Citton makes way for Allessandro Fusco to take over the 9 shirt.

Centre Damiano Mazza and Jacopo Trulla also come into the back-line with Giulio Bertaccini and Michael Mba making way.

There are two changes in the pack with Lorenzo Michelini coming in at loosehead to scrummage against Michael Milne. Blindside Angelo Aurizzi replaces Andrea Chianucci.

Having watched England go hunting for a bonus point and fall short, phrases like ‘five-point haul’ won’t easily pass the lips of Ireland players pre-match today.

However, that is the result they need to stay in with a shout of making the semi-finals.

If they can run up a sizable score against Italy and pull onto 10 points in Pool B (unreachable by England as they begin the day on four point) then Noel McNamara must wait and see whether his charges are overtaken as the best pool runner-up after France meet hosts Argentina and New Zealand take on South Africa. They meet in the climax to pool A and C at 17.00 and 19.30 respectively.

At this stage, it’s hard to escape the feeling that any hope should be channeled towards keeping these young men fit and well. 

Ireland U20

15. Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
14. Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster) Captain
12. Cormac Foley (St.Mary’s College/Leinster)
11. Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster)
10. Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster)
9. Colm Reilly (Buccaneers/Connacht)

1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster)
2. John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
3. Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster)
4. Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)
5. Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
6. David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster)
7. Ciaran Booth (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)
8. Azur Allison (Ballymena/Ulster)


16. Declan Adamson (Clontarf/Leinster)
17. Tom Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster)
18. Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster)
19. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht 
20. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 
21. Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht)
22. Luke Clohessy (Shannon/Munster) *
24. Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
25. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster)
26. David Ryan (UCD/Leinster) *
27. Aaron O’Sullivan (UCD/Leinster) *
28. Max O’Reilly (Dublin University/Leinster) *

Italy U20

15 Ange Capuozza (Grenoble Espoirs)
14 Jacopo Trulla (Valsugana Rugby Padova)                                      
13 Federico Mori (Etruscan Rugby)
12 Damiano Mazza (Kawasaki Calvisano Robot)              
11 Cristian Lai (7 Fradis Rugby)
10 Paolo Garbisi (Mogliano Rugby 1969)                 
9 Alessandro Fusco (Rugby Napoli Afragola)        

1 Lorenzo Michelini (Edinol Biella Rugby)   
2 Niccolò Taddia (FEMI-CZ Rovigo)
3 Matteo Nocera (Fiamme Oro Rugby)
4 Nicolare Stoian (Rugby Anzio)
5 Thomas Parolo (FEMI-CZ Rovigo)
6 Angelo Maurizi  (Ione Rugby L’Aquila)       

7 Davide Ruggeri (Rugby Como) – Captain
8 Antoine Koffi (Kawasaki Calvisano Robot)


16 Andrej Marinello (Ruggers Tarvisium)
17 Matteo Drudi (Frascati Rugby 2015) 
18 Luca Francheschetto (Rangers Vicenza)
19 Filippo Alongi (The Titans) 
20 Andrea Zambonin (Rangers Rugby Vicenza)
21 Andrea Chianucci (Tuscany Airports The Medicean)
22 Mirko Finotto (Mogliano Rugby 1969)
23 Lorenzo Citton (Valsugana Rugby Padova)
24 Giacomo Da Re (Mogliano Rugby 1969)
25 Giulio Bertaccini (Rugby Parma Amateur)
26 Matteo Moscardi  (FEMI-CZ Rovigo)
27 Edoardo Mastandrea (Valsugana Rugby Padova)
28 Micheal Mba (Rugby Casale)
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