Mike Ruddock names squad capable of challenging for Six Nations under-20 title
“The potential is there, they look very good, they look very competitive”
Ireland under-20 captain Dan Leavy (UCD RFC), PWC Partner Damian Byrne, head coach Mike Ruddock and Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians RFC) at yesterday’s media day ahead of the Six Nations Championship. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Following two years of seriously talented players coming out of the Irish schools system – Leinster in particular – Mike Ruddock has been able to name what looks a squad capable of challenging for this season’s Six Nations title.
“The potential is there, they look very good, they look very competitive,” said Ruddock yesterday. “I look forward to moulding them into a team. We had some good results in the Six Nations last year, we beat England and France at home and England went on to win the World Cup.”
However, a hamstrung Billy Dardis looks to be out of the opening fixture against Scotland on January 31st in Athlone. The former Terenure College fullback, now ensconced in the Leinster academy and playing for UCD, pulled a hamstring at training on Tuesday.
Captained by Dan Leavy, who brilliantly led St Michael’s to the 2012 Leinster schools title, the prodigious flanker is joined by seven UCD players teammates. One of whom, youths product Adam Byrne, has already been capped by Leinster in the Pro 12.
Lansdowne FC contribute seven to the squad, including former Gonzaga schoolboy Conor McKeon, who will compete with Ross Byrne for the number 10 jersey.
Other players worth tracking this season are Harrison Brewer, the converted centre whose father is All Black great Mike, while Roscrea’s powerful lock-cum-backrow Seán O’Brien is expected to be be accommodated in Ruddock’s match-day squad.
Prop Peter Dooley and Peadar Timmins return from last year’s Six Nations squad but it should be noted that Leavy and Byrne were both injured.
“I think there was a bit of a shock to the system changing from schools to the academy set-up,” said Leavy of his growing pains. “It is a lot more of a strain on the body and I don’t think I managed it as well as I could have done.
“I injured my hamstring, missed the Six Nations, but I have learned to deal with that a bit better.
“I worked my way into the World Cup squad and got to go over and play a couple of great Tests. I’ve looked after myself a bit better this season.”