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Schmidt's Ireland inspired by performances of U20s in England

Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek is excited to get working with loosehead Andrew Porter.

Rory Keane reports from Port Elizabeth  

IT WAS A badly-needed boost for Irish sport after a traumatic few days across the globe.

Nigel Carolan’s Ireland U20s side stormed into the final of the World Championship with a ruthless 37-7 demolition of Argentina on Monday night.

Ireland U20's celebrate in the changing rooms after the game Ireland's U20s have a World Championship final on Saturday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Just the tonic after a weekend which featured the Republic of Ireland’s 3-0 trouncing by the Belgians, Shane Lowry’s late collapse at the US Open and the dramatic finale in Johannesburg as Joe Schmidt’s side let a 16-point lead slip.

Watching on from their team hotel in Port Elizabeth, scrum coach Greg Feek and his squad could only marvel at the daring and skill of the likes of Max Deegan, Jacob Stockdale, Johnny McPhillips and Shane Daly.

“Yeah, we’ve been keeping an eye on them and we’re pretty proud of how they’re getting and we’re even inspired by some of their performances and what they’re doing,” said Feek.

“We’re certainly wish them all the best in their upcoming final against England.”

It certainly appears to be a matter of when, and not if, many of this talented squad graduate to higher honours in the coming seasons.

In fact, eight of this year’s U20s crop have been rewarded with places in Leinster’s academy next season. Inspirational skipper James Ryan, Will Connors, Deegan, Hugo Keenan, Conor O’Brien, Jimmy O’Brien, Jack Power and Andrew Porter have all made the grade following their exploits in Manchester.

For Feek, the prospect of working with Leinster loosehead Porter, a freakish specimen who is setting all kinds of record in the gym, is an exciting one.

“He’s a strong man and he’s really starting to grow into himself,” said Feek.

Rhys Ruddock with Joe Schmidt Ireland trained in Port Elizabeth today. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I think he’s really grown over the last six months. He’s grown into his core roles, particularly. He’s always been pretty strong and that’s starting to transfer now. It’s great to see for him.”

There is plenty of regret about last Saturday’s game at Ellis Park, but the performance of Tadhg Furlong during his 60-minute shift will have pleased the former All Blacks prop.

Furlong, making his first Test start, made a hugely positive impression at scrum-time ably assisted by debutant Quinn Roux at tighthead lock.

“Yeah, it was Quinn’s first start in a Test match, we were pretty pleased with how he went,” said Feek.

“He hasn’t played for quite a long time so he did really well. Obviously Tadhg, he’s been on our radar for a while and I think he did very well from where we were sitting.

“I think there was a lot of nerves coming over here particularly with the reputation and the size of the South African pack. Both teams won their ball, 100%, so it wasn’t too one-sided from our point of view; the boys were pretty sore and battered.

“So, hopefully we can at least match them again this week. We’ve grown from this experience because all their forwards there, we learned something from and I suppose our goal, as a pack, is to improve each week from the week before and to learn and gain experience from that. It’s been massive in terms of that.”

Keith Earls Keith Earls will be back for Ireland this weekend. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Duane Vermuelen’s absence due to an elbow injury is a timely boost for Ireland, but, as Feek explained, it’s not as if the Springboks are running low on back row stocks:

“Yeah, he’s one of the most powerful loose forwards in world rugby and sometimes you spend an extra bit of time working out how to stop someone like that, whether it’s ball carry, tackle and particularly when he’s on the ball, he’s hugely strong and I think the players around him would get boosted by having him there.

“I tell you what, they’ve got some depth at loose forward with [Warren] Whiteley and those sort of guys, there’s so many good players over here and we’re certainly in awe of some of the talent that is available.

“From a South Africa point of view, I suppose it’s a big loss but I suppose if you look at it positively, you’re going to introduce guys who are just as good.”

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