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Ireland U20s won't be overawed ahead of clash with seniors and England

Noel McNamara is keen to prep his side to play without the benefit of a supportive home crowd.

Thomas Ahern celebrates the win over Wales.
Thomas Ahern celebrates the win over Wales.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

TWO WINS DOWN, 10 points on the board, Ireland U20s won’t be overawed, says Noel McNamara, as his side look ahead to a testing visit to England.

The reigning Grand Slam winners didn’t need the high gears as they ran out 36-22 winners over Wales in Cork on Friday night. And with two weeks to go before the trip to Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens, they hope to boost their ranks with the return of Ulster pair Hayden Hyde and Ethan McIlroy, plus Max O’Reilly and Niall Comerford.

A full complement of personnel in training allows McNamara and his assistants to get the best out of their training sessions, which will prove vital in helping players prepare to perform without a raucous home crowd behind them.

“(The crowd) is certainly something the boys fed off in the first two games,” said the head coach after another bonus point-win on home turf, “after half-time we probably compounded a few errors. The crowd went a bit flat and we went a bit flat as well.

“There’s learning in that for us. We’re going to have to get that buzz from ourselves, from each other, when you go away from home to Franklin’s Gardens.”

The buzz, for some teams, can take the form of exaggerated celebration when big turnovers or penalties are won. That may come, but McNamara is after something less audible. 

“It’s about feeding off each other. Sometimes it’s eye energy. It’s not necessarily loud celebrations. When you see a team that’s connected, it’s evidenced in the little things like working hard for each other.

“You can see that in support at line-breaks, see it in working hard to get back. Wales broke late in the game and Ben Murphy’s work-rate to get back and snuff it out was incredible.

“There’s lots of evidence through it where they’re connected and working hard for each other.”

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ireland-players-celebrate-mark-hernans-first-half-try Ireland celebrate one of Mark Hernan's tries on Friday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Clare man had his team working hard for each other when they recorded two wins from three clashes against England in 2019. Both new crops will go into their 21 February fixture with two wins from two. And England will be looking forward to a first home game this term after tight wins on the road over France and Scotland.

“It’s always going to be a challenge, England away, but the lads have taken a lot of belief from the last few weeks.

“We certainly won’t be overawed by it. looking forward to the challenge very much, that’s the conversation in the changing room.”

Before that challenge, the U20s will face a tough dry run close to home as they head into training with Andy Farrell’s senior squad in Cork. An ideal way to sharpen the mind and test the gameplan at speed.

It’s a pressurised environment. It’s pressurised because of the quality of player you’re up against. There’s a big crowd at these things as well and the boys have to stick together. It’s a good place to test that. 

“It’s important, because it’s a challenge. It’s important not to be overawed by it. If you stand off, if you don’t get stuck into those exercises then you’re going to come off a bit worse off.

“For the boys, it’s about understanding that they’re on the same playing field and they have to stand up and be counted.

“It’ll be exactly the same when we go over the play England.”

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Sean Farrell

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