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'He wouldn't be the loudest': Leinster's Penny does his talking on the pitch

The flanker led Ireland’s defensive effort against England and will be hoping for more of the same against Scotland tonight.

ON AN EVENING when Ireland performed superbly as a team to defy the odds and topple England, there was no shortage of outstanding individual contributions, not least the work of Scott Penny in the back row.

The 19-year-old may only be playing in his first U20 Six Nations, but already the Leinster flanker has four Guinness Pro14 appearances under his belt and, certainly, he is one of the brightest young prospects in Irish rugby.  

Scott Penny and Alex Coles Penny in action against England. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

A penchant for scoring tries — he already has two to his name for the eastern province — continued as he grounded at the base of the post during a helter-skelter first half at Musgrave Park, but Penny’s appetite for work, ball-carrying ability and overall dynamism makes him a potent weapon at seven.

Part of an influential back row unit alongside John Hodnett and Martin Moloney, Penny also led from the front defensively during another performance which only adds to the excitement surrounding his potential at such a young age. 

The former St Michael’s College student, who is only a year out of school, starts again for Noel McNamara’s side against Scotland tonight [KO 7.30pm], and his availability is a major fillip for Ireland as they continue their Six Nations campaign.  

“Scott is a quality player,” Kieran Campbell, the head of the Ulster academy who is Ireland’s defence coach for the championship, said.

“I think he has had good exposure at senior level. In terms of what he does, he wouldn’t be the loudest guy. It’s more how he leads in what he does.

“There were times in that game where some of his line speeds and his tackles in behind the gain line…you talk about England being big, it’s pretty difficult when they’re getting smashed in behind the gain line. That’s what Scott brought to it.

“He was really the guy who engineered the line speed in the game, which really allowed us to get into their big guys and make sure they didn’t generate momentum.

“It’s more how Scott leads and I suppose that is reflective of him playing at a higher level. What I’ve noticed about Scott well is, he’s a really good person. He’s very, very applied to his detail and that reflects in how he plays.”

After beginning their Six Nations with a bang and setting down a marker, it is no surprise McNamara has made just one change to his side for the round two visit to Scotland, with luckless scrum-half Craig Casey forced out through injury.

The Munster nine was withdrawn during the latter stages of the 35-27 win with a head knock, but it later emerged he sustained a knee injury and visited Santry during the week for a scan. Leinster’s Cormac Foley deputises in his place.

Kieran Campbell Ireland U20 defence coach Kieran Campbell. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

One of the striking aspects of last Friday’s victory was Ireland’s cohesion and collective fight, playing some eye-catching rugby but also rolling up their sleeves to dig themselves out of difficult situations, notably an 11-point deficit at one juncture.

With strong competition for places across the board, McNamara, Campbell and Ambrose Conboy have cultivated an excellent environment for the group, the evidence of which was very much on show in Cork.

The challenge now is to build on that this week against a Scottish side that were defeated by Italy in their opening fixture, but will be better for the experience and another week of training.

“The group is hugely ambitious,” Campbell continued. “We set our stall out from the get-go, we want to perform and perform well. We need to back it up and make sure that when we get to Scotland we deliver a performance that is better than England again.

When we reviewed on Saturday morning, the first thing we said is there is so much growth in the team. We did give a good performance. I think we got the result on the back of a good performance but there is significant growth to be had. This is a pretty good side. Yes, we have a lot of unity but we have a lot of quality as well. There is a lot of growth to come.

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And there is huge motivation within the group. 

Former Ireland scrum-half Campbell adds: “There’s a real drive to perform again. I think some of the guys are really talking about ‘you shouldn’t need any more motivation than playing against another national team’.

“Scotland will always be tough regardless of where we play them or what the atmosphere is like. I think that’s the good thing about this group as well. There seems to be a genuine drive to do really, really well. Drive on and not be getting complacent.” 

Scotland U20:

15. Rufus McLean (Watsonians)
14. Rory McMichael (Heriot’s)
13. Cameron Anderson (Wasps)
12. Robbie McCallum (Complutense Cisneros)
11. Jack Blain (Heriot’s)
10. Ross Thompson (Glasgow Hawks)
9. Roan Frostwick (Currie Chieftains) 

1. Sam Grahamslaw (Leicester Tigers)
2. Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks)
3. Murphy Walker (Stirling County)
4. Cameron Henderson (Stirling County)
5. Ewan Johnson (Racing 92)
6. Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s)
7. Connor Boyle (Watsonians)(captain)
8. Kwagga Van Niekirk (Lions).

Replacements:

16. Angus Fraser (Glasgow Hawks)
17. Andrew Nimmo (Glasgow Hawks)
18. Euan McLaren (Ayr)
19. Ross Bundy (Stirling County)
20. Jack Mann (Edinburgh Accies)
21. Kyle McGhie (Musselburgh)
22. Nathan Chamberlain (Bristol Bears)
23. Matt Davidson (London Scottish).

Ireland U20:

15. Jake Flannery (Shannon RFC / Munster)
14. Conor Phillips (Young Munster RFC / Munster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University FC / Leinster)
12. David Hawkshaw (Clontarf FC / Leinster) Captain
11. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution FC / Munster)
10. Harry Byrne (Lansdowne FC / Leinster)
9. Cormac Foley (St.Mary’s College RFC / Leinster)

1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster RFC / Munster)
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians RFC / Connacht)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University FC / Leinster)
4. Charlie Ryan (UCD RFC / Leinster)
5. Niall Murray (Buccaneers RFC / Connacht)
6. Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere RFC / Leinster)
7. Scott Penny (UCD RFC / Leinster)
8. John Hodnett (UCC RFC / Munster)

Replacements:

16. John McKee (Old Belvedere RFC / Leinster)
17. Michael Milne (UCD RFC / Leinster)
18. Luke Masters (Shannon RFC / Munster)
19. Brian Deeny (Clontarf FC / Leinster)
20. David McCann (Banbridge RFC / Ulster)
21. Colm Reilly (Buccaneers RFC / Connacht)
22. Sean French (Cork Constitution FC / Munster)
23. Rob Russell (Dublin University FC / Leinster).

Following a heartbreaking Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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