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Three changes as Ruddock's Ireland U20s aim to ruin France's Grand Slam

The Sean O’Brien-captained Irish are targeting their third win of the championship.

The promising Cian Kelleher has been moved to fullback.
The promising Cian Kelleher has been moved to fullback.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND U20 HEAD coach Mike Ruddock has made three changes to his starting team ahead of the clash with France on Friday night.

The home side will claim a Grand Slam if they can overcome the Irish challenge at the Stade Maurice Trelut in Tarbes [KO 7.55pm Irish time], with Ruddock’s side focused on claiming their third win of the campaign.

Munster academy play Alex Wootten comes into the backline in place of David Busby, who started the previous four games at fullback. As a result of Wootten’s inclusion on the right wing, the impressive Cian Kelleher shifts into the fullback position.

Ruddock has gone for a new halfback pairing in Bruff scrum-half Jack Cullen and Lansdowne out-half Conor McKeon, who replace Nick McCarthy and Ross Byrne respectively.

Cullen is another Munster academy member, having joined the youth system at the start of the season after developing with Saracens. Similarly, Wootten is a product of the Exiles structure in England, having had a spell with the Northampton Saints’ academy.

The positional switch for Kelleher is an exciting one, given the manner in which he performed at fullback against Italy last weekend following a first-half injury to Busby. The Lansdowne flyer will look to pick up where he left off against this powerful French side on Friday night.

Ireland U20 (v France): Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne, Leinster); Alex Wootten (Garryowen/Munster), Dan Goggin (Young Munster/Munster), Peter Robb (Old Belvedere, Leinster), Adam Byrne (UCD, Leinster); Conor McKeon (Lansdowne, Leinster), Jack Cullen (Bruff, Munster); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne, Leinster), Max Abbott (Cork Con, Munster), Rory Burke (Cork Con, Munster); Sean O’Brien (Galwegians, Connacht, capt.), Ross Malony; Peadar Timmins (both UCD, Leinster), Rory Moloney (Buccaneers/Connacht), Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohs, Munster).

Replacements: Sean McNulty (UCD, Munster), Denis Coulsen (Lansdowne, Leinster), Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne, Leinster), Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Frankie Taggart (Belfast ‘Quins, Ulster), Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne (both UCD, Leinster), David Busby (QUB, Ulster).

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Murray Kinsella

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