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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Ross Byrne gave a masterclass in out-half play against Wales.
# Talent
Byrne, O'Donoghue, Ringrose and Taggart stand out for Ireland U20s
With Ireland now set up to compete for a JWC semi-final spot, we look at those who excelled against Wales.

MIKE RUDDOCK’S IRELAND U20s secured an excellent 35-21 Pool B victory over Wales this morning to spark their Junior World Championship campaign back into life.

New Zealand’s defeat to South Africa in Pool C means that if Ireland can claim a bonus point win over Fiji on Tuesday, they will advance to the semi-finals of the competition, even if France beat Wales in the other remaining Pool B tie.

While the win over the Welsh was certainly all about the collective performance – something Ruddock has stressed at this level – the U20s remain a development pathway into professional rugby.

With that in mind, and while congratulating all those involved, we have picked out four players who stood out in Pukekohe.

Ross Byrne

UCD out-half Byrne exuded composure throughout the 80 minutes, infectiously spreading confidence among his teammates. The former St. Michael’s student has long been lauded as one to watch and this performance showed exactly why.

Byrne’s passing was accurate and sympathetic, inviting carriers onto the ball and prompting them to run at weak shoulders in the defence, while his body shape meant Wales were unable to drift off him early.

From the tee, the 19-year-old missed just two of his seven attempts, and demonstrated a smooth, consistent technique. His tactical kicking out of hand was equally as impressive, with three diagonal punts from left to right sticking in the memory.

There were few faults to pick in Byrne’s rounded display.

Jack O’Donoghue

Jack O'Donoghue Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO O'Donoghue pictured in action against France last weekend. Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

The captain and No. 8 gave a muscular performance from the base of the scrum and was heavily involved in much of Ireland’s best play. His clever quick-tap and surge led to Garry Ringrose’s first try in the opening half, demonstrating the UL Bohs man’s power.

O’Donoghue is an explosive carrier and possesses a strong fend, allowing him to come out on top of many contact situations. In defence, his leg drive was evident too, as he forced Welsh runners backwards in the tackle.

Highly rated within the Munster set-up, the Waterford native also completed the scrappier tackles around the fringes of rucks and demonstrated his ever-improving breakdown skills.

Garry Ringrose

Gary Ringrose 14/12/2013 Cathal Noonan / INPHO Ringrose was a strong place-kicker at Schools level. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

A teammate of Byrne’s at UCD, Ringrose is another player who was recognised for his displays in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup with Blackrock. His long-range try in the 2013 final was memorable, with the 19-year-old’s pace and evasiveness on show again versus Wales.

While two tries make it easy to pick out Ringrose as one of the best performers in this particular game, the outside centre was a constant threat with ball in hand, producing a number of darting half-breaks thanks to his ability to scan the defensive line for openings.

Even more encouraging was the manner in which Ringrose stood up to the mark physically, powering into contact when necessary, making his tackles efficiently and hitting rucks when required.

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Those elements of the game are something Ruddock will have wanted to see from the 90kg midfielder, and Ringrose delivered wholly.

Frankie Taggart

Frankie Taggart CameraSport / Chris Vaughan/INPHO Ulster's Taggart was a notable presence throughout for Ireland. CameraSport / Chris Vaughan/INPHO / Chris Vaughan/INPHO

While O’Donoghue was perhaps more notable in open play, Taggart played a vital role in Ireland’s attacking structure. The Ulsterman, who wore the seven shirt but can also play at No. 8, was used as a carrier closer to rucks, coming around the corner.

The Belfast Harlequins back row is strong in contact and made valuable yards throughout, as Ireland used their possession effectively. At 103kg, Taggart is the joint-heaviest back row in the Ireland squad, and his bulk was important.

While O’Donoghue’s strength is perhaps more elastic, Taggart showed an ability to wrestle through the collisions, similarly to how Chris Henry does at senior level. That same physical advantage was evident in defence too, where Taggart worked extremely hard.

Which Irish players stood out for you in the victory over Wales? 

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