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Ireland U20 hooker McElroy dropped for JWC as he closes in on Saracens move

The 19-year-old had been set to travel to Georgia with Peter Malone’s squad.

HOOKER TADGH MCELROY has been dropped from the Ireland U20 squad for the Junior World Championship as he closes in on a move to English club Saracens.

The Dundalk man was set to fly to Georgia with Peter Malone’s U20 squad yesterday but was informed at the 11th hour that he would not be travelling.

inpho_01175218 McElroy was Ireland's first-choice hooker during the Six Nations. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

19-year-old McElroy was named in Ireland’s 28-man squad last week but was removed just before they departed for Georgia, as a move to Saracens would mean that he will no longer be part of the IRFU system next season.

It’s understood that the hooker has also had an option to join Connacht on the table in recent weeks and the IRFU had been keen for him to remain on Irish soil.

With the JWC looming, McElroy was essentially presented with the choice of signing for the Connacht academy and remaining in the Ireland U20 squad or opting for a move to reigning back-to-back European champions Saracens’s academy and being left out.

With a move to Saracens now understood to be set to go through, the English-qualified McElroy has been replaced by Ireland, as the U20s instead include a player who will be in the Irish system next season.

McElroy’s place in the JWC squad has been taken by Ireland U19 hooker Diarmuid Barron, with the Garryowen man now officially added to Ireland’s squad list.

Lansdowne clubman McElroy, who came through the ranks with Dundalk RFC, was a key player for the Ireland U20s during the Six Nations, starting all five games and scoring two tries.

The powerful hooker will miss out on involvement in the JWC, however, with the IRFU continuing to back their system of favouring players who remain in the Irish system.

The same policy applies to Ireland’s senior national team, with Donnacha Ryan the latest man to be ommitted after agreeing a move abroad. The Racing 92-bound lock was not included in Ireland’s squad to tour the US and Japan next month.

Tadgh McElroy and Ollie Dawe McElroy makes a tackle against England in the Six Nations. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If confirmed, McElroy’s move to Saracens will be followed closely. While there might be some hope of the hooker returning to Ireland in the future, it remains to be seen if his late omission from the JWC deters the Dundalk man from coming back into the Irish system.

McElroy would appear to be the kind of player the IRFU’s new IQ Rugby programme should support while playing abroad, but it seems unlikely that the hooker will be part of that UK-based system after being dropped by the U20s.

A move to Saracens would be exciting for the explosive front row, however, with their academy now supplying notable talent to Mark McCall’s senior team.

The Ireland U20s begin their JWC campaign on Wednesday with a clash against Italy in Kutaisi.

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Murray Kinsella

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