Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# Men Against Boys
5 U20 stars who made a Championship semi-final look ridiculously easy today
The Wolfpups with the big paws.

IRELAND PUT TOGETHER complete performance in today’s first World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final against Argentina.

Nigel Carolan’s Wolfpups will face either England or South Africa (who kicked off at 19.45) in the final, here’s who made getting there a joy to watch today.

Andrew Porter

In Sky’s analysis room Luke Fitzgerald casually threw in a mention about Porter’s 350kg squat in the Leinster gym before heading away with the U20s. But you don’t need to see him in a gym to know he’s a freakish athlete.

Andrew Porter and Franco Molina Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The loosehead was a weapon of mass destruction for Ireland today, every carry drew Pumitas scurrying to try and drag him down and that created breathing space for the back to flourish.

It was at the scrum though where the big man on campus really made his presence felt. Any time the sides packed down, Porter was a immovable force who compounded Argentine knock-ons and made amends for Irish ones to keep the pressure on.

Johnny McPhillips

Looked like he never entertained an instant of doubt before this huge game. Expertly marshalled his team and his use of the boot at both ends of the field.

Under his own posts his clearances were long booming efforts down the touchlines that sucked the air out of Argentina’s confidence stores.


In attack, his passing was varied and intelligent, bringing carriers onto well-timed passes at pace and, of course, his goal-kicking was almost flawless. Two brilliant first-half touchline conversions were followed by three superb penalties into posts which have proven tricky to find for most kickers in this tournament. He looked so assured addressing each ball that his one miss felt like a travesty.

Max Deegan

A deserved man-of-the-match award for Ireland’s player of the tournament so far. Showed his incredible athleticism to outpace two backs on his 60 metre sprint to an intercept try.

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Max Deegan scores the second try Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Around the park his work-rate is never found wanting either with nimble footwork making tacklers work extra hard to take him down. Showed his drive to succeed in defence with an excellent attempt at a rip that turned into a choke and was harshly adjudged to be a penalty.

Jacob Stockdale

Another man who only seems to improve as the games get bigger. Better than anyone, he characterises the brilliant footwork this team make a hallmark and that makes him a safe pair of hands no matter where he collects the ball to take into contact.

Stockdale 2

When he’s not taking a turn on the deck and presenting quick ball, the Ulster back attacks the line and seems to ghost in and out of tacklers’ range.

James Ryan

We purposefully left Ryan out of a previous edition of this piece because he’s just so bloody obviously brilliant.

James Ryan leads out his team Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Unlike the Six Nations though, the captain hasn’t had to play out of his skin one game after another. In this tournament he has had a lot more help and he has been able to concentrate on keeping the fundamentals excellent rather than deliver some magic touches to get Ireland over the line – though he’s shown them too.

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