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“I've no doubt we have players here that will go on and play for Ireland': McNamara not concerned by U20 losing run

The head coach is content that players are progressing under his watch, even if this past week’s results have not gone their way.

Jack Daly makes a carry in the defeat to Georgia
Jack Daly makes a carry in the defeat to Georgia
Image: ©INPHO

John Fallon reports from Narbonne

HEAD COACH NOEL McNamara does not believe that Ireland’s failure to win a game in the pool stage of the World Rugby U-20 Championship is reflective of a malaise in the quality of the talent coming through.

Two years ago, when Ireland reached the U-20 final for the first time, current senior stars Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan and Andrew Porter were on board.

Last year Ireland were defeated in all three pool games, including a 69-3 hammering by eventual winners New Zealand, but the narrow losses to Scotland and Italy proved costly and a reduced seeding saw them draw against hosts France and South Africa — both of whom have now reached the semi-finals — this year.

Ireland’s worst finish in the ten years of this tournament has been ninth, which happened three times, and that’s the best position they can hope for this time round, starting with trying to beat Scotland in Perpignan on Tuesday after losing 24-20 to Georgia on Thursday night.

McNamara, who has coached at various levels at schools, age grade, AIL, and is currently Elite Player Development Officer with Leinster which includes their B&I Cup team, is in a very good position to judge what talent is coming through in Ireland.

Sean O'Brien on the attack Wing Sean O'Brien was a stand-out performer for Ireland in the loss to Georgia. Source: ©INPHO

“The reality of it is, the purpose of this team is two-fold,” said McNamara, who is in his first year in charge of the national U-20 side and whose management includes Paul O’Connell.

“The purpose of this team is to be as competitive as you possibly can in these competitions and also to provide players for the national game.

“I have no doubt that we have got players here that will go forward into the professional ranks and play for Ireland. I have no doubt that there are guys that are eligible to play for us that aren’t here.

“From that perspective this has been an excellent pathway team for Ireland.

Noel McNamara Source: ©INPHO

“Unfortunately. last year and this year we haven’t been as competitive as we would have liked. It is important to note the quality of the opposition that we played against this year in particular.

“We did look a bit flat there against Georgia. The toll of the French game and how close we came, in particular. Also, the South Africa game took its toll there in the end. We have a number of guys who have played 80 minutes, 80 minutes and on again.

“I certainly don’t think it’s a sign of malaise in our pathway or in this team in particular either. Hopefully they will be able to demonstrate that strength in depth in these next two games,” he added.

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John Fallon

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