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Tierney no longer involved in U20s set-up as O'Connell remains in assistant coach role

The former Ireland women’s head coach won’t travel with the squad to France next week.

Tierney was defence coach for the U20 Six Nations earlier this year.
Tierney was defence coach for the U20 Six Nations earlier this year.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

THE IRFU HAS made a change to the Ireland U20 coaching set-up ahead of this summer’s World Championship, with Tom Tierney relieved of his duties as defence coach.

Tierney was part of Noel McNamara’s backroom staff for the Six Nations campaign alongside Paul O’Connell and Ambrose Conboy, but the Limerick native hasn’t been involved with the squad ahead of next Wednesday’s clash with hosts France.

Instead, Tierney — who stepped down as Ireland women’s coach after the disastrous home World Cup last summer — will focus on his role as an IRFU elite player development officer.

The IRFU has not replaced Tierney in the U20s set-up, with head coach McNamara joined by assistants O’Connell and Conboy for the tournament, which sees Ireland face France, South Africa and Georgia in Pool C.

“Tom isn’t involved for the Junior World Cup,” McNamara explained. “He has come off the back….I think he’s been going for three years. His role was a dual role when he came into the IRFU first, elite player development and he was assistant with us — he is focusing on that elite player development role for now.”

McNamara has included five uncapped players in his 28-man squad after several players, namely Ulster’s Angus Curtis, hookers Ronan Kelleher and Eoghan Clarke, openside flanker Sean Masterson and wing Peter Sullivan, were ruled out through injury.

It means McNamara has opted for a 16/12 split in his squad, making the inclusion of versatile backs such as Munster’s Dan Hurley and former Blackrock College centre Tom Roche key choices.

“Dan Hurley is a guy who would have played Irish Schools with me a couple of years ago,” he said. “He was top try scorer in the U18 festival with five tries in three games. He is someone who has a physical presence, who has played AIL with Young Munster and is a guy we are very happy to have.

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“Tom Roche has had a great year, he’s worked really hard. He played very well for Lansdowne in the 20s. He played 12, he’s got a bit of versatility. He played against Scotland last week, he played against Munster the previous week. He is a guy who will add a physical edge to us in the backline.”

Tom Roche with Harry O'Neill Tom Roche was an impressive performer for Blackrock at schools level. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Peter Sylvester, Joe Byrne and Dan Sheehan are all also in line for Ireland debuts at this age grade, with the travelling party finalising preparations with training games against Japan in Dublin this week.

“Peter Sylvester has had a really good year with UCC,” McNamara continued. “He’s a good playmaker and brings other people into the game. I think just adds another dimension. He is also versatile and can cover…with the split we have gone 16/12 (in terms of forwards and backs).

“Obviously we are facing three teams that are very forward orientated. We needed to have that support in the back five and the front row. It just meant that players that were versatile like Tom Roche and Peter Sylvester were very beneficial to us.”

After wins over Scotland and Munster in recent weeks, Ireland’s focus is on producing an 80-minute performance in their campaign opener against Les Blues in Perpignan next Wednesday, before huge physical tests against South Africa and Georgia in Narbonne.

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