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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019

McCarthy excited to release star-studded Ireland U20s backline

The UCD scrum-half is captain of Nigel Carolan’s side, who face Italy this evening.

IT’S ALL CHANGE for the Ireland U20s this year, despite the comfort of several returning faces.

Captain Nick McCarthy is one of the men who starred under Mike Ruddock last season, as Ireland powered into the semi-finals of the Junior World Championship. The UCD scrum-half is back for another stint of U20s rugby but there has been change to the coaching structure.

Nick McCarthy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Connacht academy manager Nigel Carolan is the new head coach, overseeing an IRFU backroom staff of high quality.

Their efforts to ensure this crop of young players push into the professional game start for real tonight in Biella, where Ireland face Italy [KO 18.00 Irish time]. The game plan we see put into action will have largely come from the players themselves.

“I think with Nigel, he gives a lot of responsibility to the players to make the decisions on the pitch, which is great,” explains McCarthy.

It’s a pretty open game plan, which I think suits us and we’ve got really fast backs out wide, so if we can win the battle up front I think we’ll be in a really good place for most of the games.”

Indeed, a backline starring 2014 Junior World Player of the Year nominee Garry Ringrose, returning out-half Ross Byrne, playmaking inside centre Fergal Cleary and a dangerous back three of Billy Dardis, Jack Owens and Greg O’Shea is built to score tries.

McCarthy has played with these men before, and underlines that reputation means nothing if it’s not backed up on occasions like this evening’s.

“We probably under performed as a backline when we were with the U18 Schools, but this time around we’re definitely motivated. We had a really big reputation back then, but we definitely didn’t do as well as we should have,” admits McCarthy.

Nick McCarthy clears the ball McCarthy played in last year's JWC. Source: Photosport/David Rowland/INPHO

“This year we’ve got to be ready to get going and show everyone what we’re about.”

McCarthy was appointed captain of the Ireland U20s by his own teammates, another sign of the changes within the set-up this season. Clearly, he is held in high regard and it’s little surprise based on his performances in recent years.

He’s been heavily involved with Leinster’s ‘A’ side this season, appearing off the bench in last month’s 51-32 quarter-final win over Rotherham, while the province’s academy staff are pushing him to get better all the time.

I suppose for me, I’m never going to be the biggest lad on the pitch,” says the 83kg, 5ft 10ins McCarthy, “so improving that is a focus. But if I can get my skills as good as they can be, that would help me to push on. I need to get the best out of my skills.”

McCarthy is in the second year of an engineering degree in UCD and admits balancing his rugby and college workloads can be extremely demanding. He passed his latest batch of exams with some relief and shrugs that “it’s not too bad.”

Living close to the university is helpful in terms of training in Leinster’s base there, and making labs and lectures, while the ambitious style of rugby UCD RFC play is also well suited to McCarthy.

Lorcan Dow, Nick McCarthy, Nigel Carolan and Rory Moloney Lorcan Dow, McCarthy, Carolan and Rory Moloney are hoping for a winning start in Italy tonight. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

For now, his entire focus is on the U20 Six Nations, where he’ll look to guide Ireland to success alongside his old St. Michael’s halfback partner, Byrne.

“I’ve played with Ross a lot, so we’re pretty used to each other,” says McCarthy. “We can get on the same page, and we both love playing a wide game.

“I love getting out to the ruck, getting the ball away. It doesn’t suit me playing a slow game that just hits forwards short.”

Ireland U20s:

15. Billy Dardis (UCD/Leinster)
14. Greg O’Shea (Shannon/Munster)
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
12. Fergal Cleary (Lansdowne /Leinster)
11. Jack Owens (QUB/Ulster)
10. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
9. Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster) (captain)

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)


16. Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster)
17. Michael Lagan (Ballymena/Ulster)
18. Conan O’Donnell (Sligo/NUIG/Connacht)
19. Cian Romaine (Buccaneers/Connacht)
20. Nick Timoney (St. Mary’s/Leinster)
21. Jack Cullen (Shannon/Munster)
22. Joey Carbery (UCD/Leinster)
23. Sam Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster)

Italy U20s:

15. Giacomo De Santis (Cammi Calvisano)
14. Luca Sperandio (Marchiol Mogliano)
13. Matteo Gabbianelli (Pesaro Rugby)
12. Enrico Lucchin (Marchiol Mogliano)
11. Yannick Agbasse (Asolo Rugby)
10. Maicol Azzolini (Pesaro Rugby)
9. Luca Petrozzi (Benetton Treviso)

1. Dino Dallavalle (Rugby Viadana)
2. Luhandre Luus (Accademia FIR)
3. Paolo Buonfiglio (Marchiol Mogliano) (captain)
4. Davide Zanetti (Cammi Calvisano)
5. Davide Fragnito (Rugby Benevento)
6. Matteo Archetti (Rugby Rovato)
7. Dennis Bergamin (Valsugana Padova)
8. Renato Giammarioli (Rugby Città di Frascati)


16. Vincenzo Barbuscia (Messina Rugby Clan)
17. Enjel Makelara (Marchiol Mogliano)
18. Federico Pavesi (Cammi Calvisano)
19. Ugo D’Onofrio (L’Aquila Rugby)
20. Matteo Cornelli (Marchiol Mogliano)
21. Riccardo Raffaele (L’Aquila Rugby)
22. Matteo Minozzi (Valsugana Padova)
23. Tommaso Beraldin (Valsugana Padova)

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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