Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Morgan Treacy/INPHO Kendellan was named Ireland U20 captain.
# Green shoots
'These young players are similar to our seniors - they apply themselves well'
Ireland Under 20 coach Richie Murphy is positive about the talent coming through at underage level ahead of this year’s Six Nations.

IT HAS BEEN just over 15 months since the world changed and the rugby world shut down.

For some, moments have been lost forever, the cessation of last season’s Under 20 Six Nations campaign having a seismic impact on the Irish players involved.

Having already collected a Triple Crown, they were rightly looking at the possibility of adding a grand slam to their CVs. That chance was thieved from them by Covid, lockdowns and time.

While the class of 2020 will forever have regrets, the show moves on. A new year has brought together a new team, the squad for this year’s Under 20 Six Nations championship, finalised earlier today.

“It has been a difficult process really,” said the Ireland Under 20s coach, Richie Murphy. “Some guys were in academies, some were working remotely so that was difficult (in terms of their conflicting levels of fitness) but the lads applied themselves really well and we let them build up into it, taking the relevant precautions along the way.”

For the majority, match-day rugby has been an alien concept over the last 12 months, the odd one – such as captain, Alex Kendellan, getting a taste of senior action with Munster, the majority relying on in-house training games.

alex-kendellan Morgan Treacy / INPHO Kendellan training with the Munster seniors. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“Within the camps we have had, what we tried to do was put a game element into that, whether it be 40 minutes or 80 minutes of rugby. We have tried to build them up slowly with their game minutes but also the intensity of their training minutes.

“We feel we are ready to compete at the level they are going into.”

Of course at this age range, results aren’t everything. Yes, they matter but educating players and guiding them across the bridge from underage to senior rugby is also important.

“It is always a balance of performance and result because you are going into a competition and you are obviously trying to win something,” said Murphy. “Along the way, Under 20s rugby is the pinnacle of age grade system in Ireland, coming through the schools and into provincial academies and into the pathways and this is the pinnacle of it. From here guys go into the big bad world of adult rugby. We want to be competitive. We are very much aware it is a developmental tool as well.”

In this respect, Murphy is a useful guide, having previously worked with the Ireland seniors team under Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell. “These players are similar to our seniors in that they apply themselves really well. The difference would be the expectation of the player at senior level is they understand a huge amount of what you are asking them to do whereas at this level it is about showing them a new direction and a new way forward so that they can apply themselves and be effective within the team. You are trying to change some of the habits they would have had as a schoolboy and you are trying to bring them on and really open their eyes to what adult rugby looks like.”

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Ireland U20s Six Nations Fixtures 2021:

(All games at Cardiff Arms Park)

  • Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 19 June, 2pm
  • Wales v Ireland, Friday 25 June, 8pm
  • Ireland v England, Thursday 1 July, 8pm
  • Italy v Ireland, Wednesday 7 July, 2pm
  • Ireland v France, Tuesday 13 July, 4.45pm.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella assess Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht’s campaigns and answer loads of listener questions as the 2020/21 provincial season draws to a close.



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