Ireland Under-20s braced for ultimate challenge against New Zealand
Ruddock’s young charges aiming to secure a Junior Rugby World Cup semi-final place for the first time
Ireland Under-20 coach Mike Ruddock: “We have to make sure to win our own ball at scrum and lineout.” Photograph: Inpho
Ireland Under-20 coach Mike Ruddock says his men appreciate the task that awaits them against New Zealand this evening but they are ready to bid to qualify for the semi-finals of the Junior World Championship for the first time.
Victory would not just secure a best ever finish for Ireland in the six-year history of the competition but would also prevent New Zealand from reaching the final for the first time.
Ruddock, who has made eight changes from the side which hammered Fiji 46-3 but is without injured place-kicker Tom Daly, said his side are up for the job they face at Stade de la Rabine in Vannes (kick-off 5.45pm, Irish time, live TG4).
“We have got to do everything right. It is pretty simple, we’ll be very competitive with our set-piece, we have to make sure to win our own ball at scrum and lineout, the breakdown is going to be a massive area.
“We focused very much on defence against Australia, on our set-piece against Fiji and the breakdown will be the big area against New Zealand.
“If we let New Zealand loose forwards dictate the breakdown and dominate that area they’ll have a lot more ball and a lot more opportunities, so we’ll have to work hard on that that.”
Last year’s fifth place in South Africa was Ireland’s best finish since the tournament started in 2008.
The sides are level on nine points each at the top of the pool with New Zealand on a marginally superior points difference but ultimately placings are decided on the outcome of matches between sides.
There is an outside chance Ireland could lose and make the semi-finals as best runner-up but it is unlikely.
There has been a lot of rain in the south Brittany area for the past few days but it should be cool and dry for this evening’s game which is set to attract a capacity 9,500 crowd again.
New Zealand coach Chris Boyd said Ireland’s set-piece and physicality were the two areas which concerned him.
“The difference between the sides is not very much, we have different styles of play but it will probably come down to the small detail.
“But at the end of the day the source of the ball – scrum, lineout and tackle area – that’s probably where the game will be most contested,” he said.
IRELAND: D Leader (Connacht); A Byrne (Leinster), T Farrell (Leinster), R Scannell (Munster), R Scholes (Ulster); S Crosbie (Leinster), L McGrath (Leinster); P Dooley (Leinster), G McGuigan (Newcastle), C Taylor (Ulster); G Thornbury (Leinster), J Donnan (Ulster); D Leavy (Leinster), J van der Flier (Leinster), C Joyce (Ulster). Replacements: E Byrne (Leinster), B Byrne (Leinster), A Boland (Connacht), P Timmins (Leinster), R Murphy (Munster), D Shanahan (Leinster), M Roche (Connacht), D Sweetnam (Munster).