Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 0°C
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# Young Guns
Testy session with Schmidt's seniors has raised U20s' game for France showdown
Lock Oisin Dowling is confident Nigel Carolan’s side can produce a much-improved performance tomorrow night.

A TESTY SESSION with Joe Schmidt’s senior squad in Monaghan has put fire in the bellies of Ireland’s U20s as they look to keep their Grand Slam dreams alive when they host France at Donnybrook tomorrow night [8pm, live RTÉ2].

Nigel Carolan’s charges haven’t fired on all cylinders in the opening two rounds of this year’s competition yet they have still secured two wins from two away fixtures.

Scrappy, one-point victories against Scotland and Italy leave them sitting pretty in second place on the table but the U20s know they must raise their game for clashes against France, Wales and England if Ireland are to win their second Grand Slam at this grade.

Last Friday a breathless group of U20s got to experience one of Schmidt’s famed training sessions first-hand, in front of a vigorous 3000-strong crowd at Monaghan RFC.

Heated exchanges between the established stars and the pretenders, particularly up front, added to the atmosphere; fearless youngsters desperate to impress their heroes.

“Guys are trying to put their hand up and show the seniors that they want to step up and they don’t want to take a back step when they’re playing against them,” explains U20s lock Oisin Dowling.

“I’d actually never really trained at that kind of intensity before.

“You don’t get a second to break. From the very start I think I didn’t get a chance to get my breath back. There were three-minute blocks but then there’s a tiny bit to talk in between.

“There are no stops for set-pieces or anything like that so it’s just continuous, really high tempo. It was very beneficial going against those players.”

While the U20s have been disappointed with their opening two performances Dowling expects them to raise things a level or two against the French, especially after training under Schmidt and Co.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be as tough a session. But we definitely got a lot out of it with Joe and stuff,” Dowling, who also points to an insightful maul defence drill with Simon Easterby, adds.

“The senior lads after it gave us a few tips just on the lineout and all that kind of stuff. So that definitely helped us as well.”

The former St Michael’s College lock will have a new partner in the second row this week with Offaly native Jack Regan filling in for Fineen Wycherley, who has been drafted into Munster’s squad for their Guinness Pro12 clash against Scarlets at Thomond Park tomorrow night.

Dowling and his fellow forwards have been busy in Ireland’s opening two games, doing more than their fair share of work, but he is hoping that tomorrow night, especially on Donnybrook’s 4G pitch, their backs can do some serious damage with ball in hand.

“We’ve been playing a very forward-orientated game and not getting much ball to our backs. And not using the moves that we have. We’ve kind of been sticking with one-dimensional rugby.

“[The pitch] definitely suits the players we have, the quick backs we have.

“If we can get go-forward ball from the forwards we can definitely put it out wide and score a few good tries from that.”

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