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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO The Ireland U20s are two wins from two in the 2021 Six Nations.
# Momentum
Ireland U20s look to keep building ahead of Triple Crown showdown with England
Richie Murphy’s side are back in action on Thursday in Cardiff.

A PROMISING CAMPAIGN for the Ireland U20s could get a whole lot better later this week, with Thursday’s round three Six Nations fixture against England providing an opportunity to claim a third successive Triple Crown at the age grade. 

Ireland have won their last 10 games in the U20 Six Nations, winning the championship in 2019 and squeezing in a Triple Crown before the 2020 championship was scrapped due to the pandemic. Now, the current crop are looking to keep that impressive run going when they take on the only other unbeaten team in their year’s tournament.

According to forwards coach Colm Tucker, Ireland expect to meet “a very, very good rugby team” in Cardiff on Thursday evening.

“Very, very strong,” Tucker said. “A very, very cohesive pack of forwards. A team that’s very comfortable playing direct or playing to width.

“I think one of the most impressive things for me about their team so far has been their character. France played unbelievable rugby in the first 40 minutes against them and they were able to come back very strongly in the second half, and get a bonus point. Against Scotland they went down to 13 men for a period of time, including a red card.

They weathered the storm and they were able to come back and score two tries at the finish. There’s massive threats within them and for us to perform against them, we just have to focus on ourselves really. Play to our own strengths. They’re a very, very good rugby side, but it’s a huge challenge and one we’re massively looking forward to.”

In this fixture last season Ireland blitzed England in Northampton, putting six tries on the home side. Of course, the nature of U20s rugby means only so much can be taken from what has happened before, given the high turnover of players from year to year.

Instead, Ireland have been focusing on what has worked for them over the last few weeks, with Richie Murphy’s side recording bonus point wins over Scotland and Wales in their opening two fixtures.

“I think our set-piece has been fairly strong overall,” Tucker said.

“I think the scrum has provided a decent platform. I think we’re 22 from 25 line-outs, which is a decent return as well and there were a couple of maul scores. They’re going well, there’s loads we need to be better at. So far, I think their application and their attitude towards us getting better has been very, very good.”

colm-tucker Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ireland U20s forwards coach Colm Tucker. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

A number of Ireland players have made strong starts to the competition, including scrum-half Nathan Doak and versatile forward Alex Soroka, who started in the back row against Scotland before slotting into the second row against Wales.

However the standout player has been captain Alex Kendellan, who has led by example from number eight.

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“He’s just a great kid,” Tucker said. “He’s very down to earth, he’s very grounded, he doesn’t believe any hype, doesn’t read any hype around him. As a leader, I think he understands leadership starts with himself and he just makes sure he gets his own house in order and his own work done, and then that kind of rubs off on the rest of the squad.

“It’s brilliant to have a captain that will be first through the wall or won’t ask anybody something he won’t do himself. 

“He understands as well that there are very good back rows behind him that are pushing him every day in training and he understands the level he has to train at every day to stay on top of his game. 

“He’s been outstanding. I see a bright future for him if he continues his work ethic and application towards getting better.”

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