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Robbie Stephenson/INPHO Ireland have produced high-scoring displays in their opening two fixtures.
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Ireland U20s go hunting for Triple Crown against England side who 'can do a bit of everything'
The two teams meet in Cardiff this evening.

SOMETHING’S GOT TO give. Ireland and England, both with two bonus point wins from two in this year’s U20 Six Nations championship, go head-to-head in Cardiff this evening with both sides looking to take a major step towards Grand Slam glory [KO 8pm, RTÉ Player/RTÉ News Now].

Ireland, for their part, are not short of confidence and nor should they be. Richie Murphy’s side cruised to a six-try, 31-point win over Scotland on the opening weekend, but a red card for Scotland openside Harri Morris helped skew the scoreboard slightly, covering up for some slight creases in the performance, which was always likely given the disruptive nature of the last year for this group of players.

They backed that up with an improved, more assured display against Wales last week, taking their winning streak in this competition up to 10 games.

Win number 11 would bring with it a third straight Triple Crown, and for a group full of promising individual players who are beginning to click as a unit, showing some real flashes of quality in those opening two rounds, the future is looking very bright indeed.

Nathan Doak stole the show last time out, the classy scrumhalf pulling the strings with ease and scoring a superb solo try, while captain Alex Kendellan has led by example from the back row.

The supporting cast have nailed their lines too, with Leinster’s Alex Soroka underlining his talent again as he slotted into the second row last week after impressing in the back row against the Scots. 

A noticeable area of strength was Ireland’s lineout, which Soroka ably called.

“It’s one of those things that you get out what you put in,” Soroka says.

alex-soroka-celebrates-after-forcing-a-penalty Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Soroka celebrates forcing a penalty in the first round win over Scotland. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“It is tough during the week, especially in these camps, they are pretty full on and you have to go (back to the hotel) and get into the computer room and study. It’s pretty hard but you get out what you put in.

“If you analyse them well, know your detail and know what’s coming you will hopefully be able to steal a few of their balls and get good quality possession for your team. I find it rewarding when you put in a week of hard work off the pitch and then it pays off.”

Ireland’s lineout work is all the more impressive given they aren’t quite the tallest team around.

“I suppose we don’t have someone like a Tom Ahern that we did last year, who is a big lad,” Soroka continues.

“I personally don’t think it makes that much of a difference if someone is two or three inches taller than you; it doesn’t really matter if you are quicker than them, if you have better technique, it is no problem. I think you saw that against Scotland. They have a big, tall 6’9″ lad – once we got our stuff right it was okay, no problem.”

England should represent a much sterner challenge, but Ireland have held the upper hand in this fixture in recent years. Before last year’s championship was suspended they put 39 points on England in Northampton, although given the high turnover of players year-to-year at this grade, Soroka is one of just six survivors from that squad still involved with the group this year.

He starts again in the second row this evening, with Murphy making just two changes to his team, with Temi Lasisi and Sam Illo coming into the front row.

And despite their own 100% start to the championship, England boss Alan Dickens has decided to shake things up for this game, handing four players their first starts of the tournament.

Charlie Atkinson comes in at fullback, with Tom Litchfield on the wing, Arthus Clark slotting into the second row and Nahum Merigan named at number eight. Two further positional changes see Ewan Richards move to blindside and Jack Clement switch to open side.

There is potential for a fast-paced, high scoring game, with Ireland and England sharing more points between them across the opening two rounds than France, Italy, Scotland and Wales combined.

“I have been really impressed with their first two games against France and Scotland, they ,” Soroka says.

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“It is not just one threat, they can play through us, they can play around us; they have a very good kicking game, a very good set piece. We know we have to be at the top of our game in every aspect if we want to beat them.

“I think it is pretty exciting to play against a team with that much quality in it. We want to show what we can do.”

Ireland U20: Jamie Osborne; Ben Moxham, Shane Jennings, Cathal Forde, Chris Cosgrave; Tim Corkery, Nathan Doak; Temi Lasisi, Ronan Loughnane, Sam Illo; Alex Soroka, Harry Sheridan; Donnacha Byrne, Oisin McCormack, Alex Kendellen. 

Replacements: Eoin de Buitléar, Jack Boyle, Mark Donnelly, Mark Morrissey, Reuben Crothers, Conor McKee, Ben Carson, Jude Postlethwaite, Jack Kelleher, Daniel Okeke, Chay Mullins. 

England U20: Charlie Atkinson; Tom Litchfield, Jack Bates, Dan Lancaster, Arthur Relton; Fin Smith, Jack van Poortvliet; Phil Brantingham, Sam Riley, Harvey Kindell-Beaton; Arthur Clark, Alex Groves; Ewan Richards, Jack Clement, Nahum Merigan.

Replacements: Archie Vanes, Tarek Haffar, Luke Green , Freddie Thomas, Ollie Stonham, Josh Gray, Tom Carr-Smith, Tommy Mathews, Phil Cokanasiga, Tom Roebuck, Orlando Bailey 

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