Crosshaven's Wren making most of chances with Munster and Ireland U20s

The 19-year-old flyer scored a brilliant try against Scotland a fortnight ago.

“IT’S NOT CORK!” jokes Jonathan Wren when asked how he’s enjoying life in Limerick these days.

The Ireland U20 international, as proud a Cork native as most Rebels, has made the move up the N20 this season on account of joining the Munster academy.

A highly-rated wing or fullback, Wren has impressed in the U20s’ opening two games of the Six Nations, scoring a try against Scotland a fortnight ago, and he will start once again versus Italy in Rieti tomorrow night.

Jonathan Wren Wren came through Crosshaven RFC and Pres. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Life in the Munster academy is going well and he has plenty of familiar accents around him.

“I’m living with Shane Daly, Seán French, Alex McHenry and James French – so it’s a full Cork house!”

Wren travels home to Cork most Thursdays to train with his club side, Cork Con, although he’s fully installed with Noel McNamara’s U20s squad for this Six Nations and loving every minute of it.

The former Presentation College Brothers, Cork student says the clash with England in Cork in round one was “definitely the most physical game I have ever played, without a doubt.

“It’s a huge step up even just straight out of school and the pace of the game and everything. It’s just a huge step up.”

Wren, who starred at fullback in PBC’s 2017 Munster Schools Senior Cup success, has enjoyed working with U20s boss McNamara again, having had him as Ireland Schools coach as well.

“He does analysis on everything, like breaking down the teams we are going up against and breaking down our own training,” says Wren.

Wren’s late try against Scotland – burning down his left wing before slaloming inside the final defender – showed his quality on a night when opportunities were limited for the U20s backs.


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“It was a very tight and physical game so we didn’t get a lot of ball out the backs or use the full width a lot but when we did, we did some damage. It was a tight enough game for most of it.”

Wren’s defensive qualities came to the fore too, with his last-ditch tackle preventing Scotland scoring off the back of a maul, while some excellent backfield cover from the left wing denied the Scots on another occasion.

“It’s a big part of the what the back-three are focusing on this year – just the grass cover,” he says. “We just have to cover wherever – it’s all about work rate.”

Wren was disappointed to miss out on last Friday’s high-intensity training session against Joe Schmidt’s senior Ireland team, explaining that the U20s medical staff are currently managing him after troubles with shin splints earlier in this campaign.

The 19-year-old is happy to report that the injury “is coming right now,” however, and he is fit to face the Italians tomorrow as Ireland look to make it three wins from three.

Wren’s positive impression at this level is exciting for Munster. He hails from Crosshaven and first played rugby with the local club.

“It’s a great club,” says Wren. “Darren O’Shea is involved in Munster, Scott Deasy actually came from there too, so there was a good Crosshaven crowd when I grew up.”

He moved on to play in PBC for his school years and cites Paul Barr, Brian McMahon and Ger Burke as influential coaches during his time with the school.

Jonathan Wren Wren helped Cork Con to the Munster Senior Challenge Cup this season. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Having played with Ireland at U18 and U19 levels, as well as shining in PBC, Wren was an obvious candidate for the Munster academy and says he’s learning quickly with the province, even getting involved in some sessions with Johann van Graan’s senior team.

“Now that the internationals are away and we’re back in Limerick, you get a few sessions alright. It’s good to get opportunities.”

Wren cites Keith Earls as a player he looks up to – appreciating the Ireland wing’s skill level and ability to cover grass in the backfield – and the hope for Munster is that the youngster continues to shine for the U20s.

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.

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