Ireland U20 centre Peter Robb has played 1A rugby with Old Belvedere this season. CameraSport/Chris Vaughan/INPHO

Strong club rugby in Ireland helping to develop U20 internationals - Ruddock

The Ireland U20 coach says AIL exposure has challenged the pecking order in his squad ahead of the Junior World Championship.

AS THE FINAL weekend of the Ulster Bank League approaches, Mike Ruddock has stated his belief that Irish club rugby is in fine health.

A win for Old Belvedere away to relegated Garryowen on Saturday would secure the Dublin club a Division 1A title, while Highfield play-off against Thomond for a place in 2A and Kanturk take on Instonians in the hope of securing promotion into 2B for next season.

Ruddock has been head coach at Lansdowne FC since June 2011, and helped the club to a 1A title just last season. The fact that performances in the current campaign have not been of the same high calibre [Lansdowne are third heading into the final weekend] is reflective of increased quality, according to Ruddock.

“I think the club rugby in the AIL, particularly Division 1A, is very strong. You’ve only got to look at a great club like Garryowen, who unfortunately have been relegated. They’re a class act as a club and it just shows that anyone can have a bad season.

Eddie O’Sullivan has gone in and he’s done a minor miracle to improve them in the time he has had. But it just goes to show, even with that resource, there are no guarantees in this league. Anybody can beat anybody on their day and there’s a lot of great young players coming through.”

Lansdowne are chief among the clubs giving those prospects exposure in the AIL, with the likes of Jordi Murphy, Martin Moore, Craig Ronaldson and Matt Healy having stood out for Ruddock’s side before passing on to the senior professional game.

Martin Moore Martin Moore in Lansdowne colours. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The 2005 Grand Slam winner feels that he is seeing the benefits of domestic club rugby in his role as Ireland U20 head coach too. Ruddock – who will coach the Barbarians against Clontarf next week – says some players have progressed ahead of direct rivals thanks to their exposure to senior rugby in the AIL.

“Some of the U20s are getting lots of good exposure around the country; that’s fantastic. In fact, I’ve got a trial organised on the 26th of April for a lot of players who would have had that exposure, some who haven’t, just to finalise our Junior World Championship squad.

That’s great and there’s a lot of those players coming into me now – who I would’ve given trials to at the start of the season – and it’s great to see their development after playing 10 or 20 games in the All-Ireland League since.

“It’s great to see their development now. When I see them in the trial, I’ll see a lot of guys who have really kicked on, and the pecking order could have changed.”

Barbarians name first batch of players to take on Clontarf next week

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