Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
# Next generation
Clonmel man Johnston eager to take on world champions New Zealand
The Ireland U20 out-half made his debut in the stunning 26-25 comeback win over Wales.

John Fallon reports from Manchester

IRELAND U20 OUT-HALF Bill Johnston, who kicked eleven points on his debut against Wales, reckons his side will have a right crack at reigning champions New Zealand when they take them on in the second pool game in the World Rugby U20 Championship.

The Clonmel native finally made his U20 debut after recovering from a shoulder injury which sidelined him for a big chunk of last season and impressed as Ireland came from behind to beat Six Nations champions Wales 26-25 on Tuesday.

Billy Johnston Camerasport / Dave Howarth/INPHO Johnston was impressive against Wales. Camerasport / Dave Howarth/INPHO / Dave Howarth/INPHO

Johnston, whose older brother David has broken through to the Munster senior side, only turned 19 in February and will be under age to feature again in the World Rugby U20 Championship when it is held in Georgia next summer.

“It was my first 80 minutes since December, so the last ten or 15 minutes I didn’t have much in the tank but credit to the team everyone put in their fair share of work, and to get the result it was brilliant.

“I’m just delighted to be playing fit and to get the win,” said Johnston, who was excellent in the win.

Ireland’s attention has switched to tomorrow’s clash with world champions New Zealand and Johnston, who got three runs with the Munster senior side in pre-season last summer, said they know it will be tough.

“The pace of the game is unlike anything I have ever played in. Some of the professional games as well that you would be involved in, the pre-season games, they would be slightly slower and slightly more structured.

“But anyone who saw the match [against Wales], it was frantic, end to end, sideline to sideline. It was really enjoyable to play in and to get the win was the cherry on top.”

Billy Johnston kicks a drop goal Camerasport / Dave Howarth/INPHO Johnston scored a drop goal in the first half against the Welsh. Camerasport / Dave Howarth/INPHO / Dave Howarth/INPHO

Johnston, introduced to the game by his dad Roy, who coaches the kids at Clonmel, said they hope to have a right crack at the Baby Blacks and become the first Irish men’s side to defeat New Zealand.

“Our tails are up and New Zealand would probably be a bit wary of the momentum that we would have.

“When we reviewed the Welsh game we picked out some really positive things that we did and a few things that we can improve on,” said the former Rockwell College student, who is in the Munster academy.

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He is enjoying the step-up in standard at the tournament and dealing with the demands of being in camp with games every four days — an ideal preparation for anyone hoping to become a professional.

“It was great, I really felt the pressure, it was a really pressurised environment. A small stadium but there was a good amount of people there. All of the coverage on the TV and internet added an extra spice. I really enjoy that atmosphere, I perform best when things are expected of me. Everyone makes mistakes but I felt I made the plays when they were expected of me.

“It’s great to get a taste this year obviously and hopefully kick on if my needed for the Six Nations and the World Cup then. It’s always an honour to represent your country,” he added.

- This article was updated at 8.16am to correct ‘New Zealand’ to ‘Wales’ in the excerpt.

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