Ireland U20s drawn with back-to-back winners France in World Championship

Noel McNamara’s latest crop of promising young players will also face Argentina and Japan.

THE IRELAND U20S have been drawn with back-to-back champions France, Argentina, and Japan in Pool A of this year’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy.

Noel McNamara’s squad finished eighth in the championship last year in Argentina – where they suffered hugely with injuries – and will be hoping to improve on that effort in 2020.

noel-mcnamara McNamara guided Ireland to a Grand Slam last year. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The French are likely to pose a big challenge, as ever, having won the last two editions of the U20 tournament, although the vast majority of the players involved in those successes have obviously progressed beyond U20 rugby, with several included in France’s squad for the upcoming senior Six Nations.

Argentina finished fourth in the tournament they hosted last year and have generally been highly competitive at U20 level, while Japan earned promotion into this year’s championship by winning the 2019 World Rugby U20 Trophy, edging out Portugal in a dramatic final last July.

While McNamara’s squad this year will, of course, be very different to last year’s, which won a Grand Slam in the Six Nations, there are some returning faces.

Tighthead prop Thomas Clarkson is underage again and will be a key man for Ireland, while fellow prop Charlie Ward should also be involved again this year.

Munster lock Thomas Ahern is another player still underage, as is Clontarf’s Brian Deeny, while the likes of Banbridge back row David McCann, Old Belvedere hooker John McKee, and Trinity fullback Max O’Reilly are back in the mix again under McNamara.

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unnamed Source: World Rugby

Cork Con out-half Jack Crowley is expected to be one of the important new faces for Ireland this year, while Ulster centre Hayden Hyde is also highly-rated. Clontarf wing Andrew Smith is a man in form, having scored a hat-trick in Ireland’s win over a Munster development team in December.

Before Ireland look towards the World Rugby U20 Championship, they have a new Six Nations campaign to negotiate, starting with the visit of Scotland to Cork on Friday 31 January.

McNamara, who took over the U20s in 2017 and is also currently Leinster’s academy manager, is due to name his Six Nations squad on Monday.  

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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