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3 players who stood out in Ireland U20s’ Six Nations win over Italy

Will Connors, Conor O’Brien and James Ryan were all excellent in Donnybrook.

THE IRELAND U20s earned their second win of the 2016 Six Nations on a 19-13 scoreline against Italy in Donnybrook.

It was a poor game overall, but a number of Irish players stood out as Nigel Carolan’s side produced a good second-half performance to clinch the victory.

Will Connors

UCD openside Will Connors was a dominant influence in the back row battle, getting through a huge workload and, crucially, adding impact with nearly every involvement.

Will Connors tackled by Harrison Keddie Connors pictured in action against Wales in round one. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The former Clongowes student, a native of Naas, produced an excellent tackling performance, consistently chopping in low on Italian ball carriers and getting a firm wrap of the arms to complete his hits.

His awareness in the build-up to Shane Daly’s try was impressive too, as he picked off the loose pass of Italy scrum-half Vincenzo Charly Ernest Trussardi to stride forward. The presence of mind to shift the ball onto Conor O’Brien in space was vital in Daly dotting down under the posts.

100kg Connors has already made an appearance for Leinster’s A team in the B&I Cup and looks to have a bright future.

Conor O’Brien

Clontarf centre Conor O’Brien was the man who actually teed up Daly for his important try, sprinting onto Connors’ pass to burst past two Italian defenders, then drawing in fullback Matteo Minozzi before releasing an offload to his midfield partner.

Conor O'Brien makes a break O'Brien was excellent in midfield. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The one-handed nature of that assist was typical of the confidence and effectiveness 97kg O’Brien provided in midfield. His carrying was a strength for Ireland as he used good footwork and an intelligent choice of running line to win yards for Ireland.

Another deft offload in the second half stood out, while his defensive work in the middle of the pitch was sound too. Having started on the wing for Ireland in the last two games, the move into midfield was highly productive against the Italians.

O’Brien is a product of Mullingar RFC, but Clontarf are now reaping the rewards with his talent.

James Ryan 

Any piece on standout Ireland U20 players would hardly be complete without mention of their impressive captain and second row, James Ryan.

The Leinster man has a huge reputation and is living up to the billing in this Six Nations with a series of brilliant performances.

James Ryan with mascot Jack Cooney Ryan is a player of rich promise. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The former St. Michael’s student was man of the match again for Carolan’s team, showing off his complete game. There were clever low tackles, a sprinkling of dominant shots on the upper body of carriers, some lovely touches with ball in hand and several impactful clearouts too.

Another Leinster A cap, the 107.5kg lock is an especially promising young Irish player. His leadership by example adds another layer to the excitement surrounding his potential and we’re likely to see much, much more of Ryan in the coming years.

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Murray Kinsella

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