Ireland under-20 coach Richie Murphy names strong side for opener in Wales

Three of last season’s Grand Slam-winning side included for game in Colwyn Bay on Friday night

Ireland Under Richie Murphy has named a strong team that includes three of last season’s Grand Slam winning side for the opening Under-20 match in the Six Nations Championship against Wales in Colwyn Bay on Friday night (7pm).

Secondrows Conor O’Tighearnaigh and Diarmuid Mangan return as does blindside flanker James McNabney of Ballymena. Sam Prendergast, loosehead prop, Gorey’s George Hadden and replacement outhalf Harry West were capped at Under-20s level during last year’s summer tournament in Italy. Hooker Gus McCarthy will captain the team.

Tighthead prop Paddy McCarthy is the younger brother of Irish international Joe while centre John Devine’s brother Matthew was scrumhalf on last year’s Grand Slam winning team. Evan O’Connell is a nephew of Paul, Ireland forwards’ coach, and the Sheahans, Danny and Jacob, are nephews of former Irish hooker Frankie.

Waterford born, La Rochelle based Ike Anagu is named on the left wing with James Nicholson switching to fullback. Hugh Gavin, Danny Sheahan, Brian Gleeson and O’Connell are under 19 and will be eligible again next year.


Prendergast, playing a year young and stepping up from the Irish U-19s, impressed during last year’s Under-20 international summer series in Italy where Murphy’s side played France, South Africa and England. Tall, languid and stylish, he was composed and sharp in spotting opportunities whether running, passing or kicking.

At 6ft 4in, his height offers him a panoramic view of the pitch and he’s well able for the robust side of the game, despite having yet filled out fully in terms of his frame. His older brother Cian, preparing with Andy Farrell’s side for the Six Nations, offered him an insight or two into the 20s age-grade.

“He [Cian] has given me a few little hints about it. He has just said that it is a big step up from what you are used to at this age. You’re not rally prepared for the intensity but one that’s really enjoyable and he said that it was one of the most exciting times that he has had as a player, so a lot to look forward to.”

Prendergast, who’s been 24th man for Leinster this season on a couple of occasions, admitted that his experiences in Italy last summer will stand to him. “I think it was really beneficial, especially having played against teams like France and South Africa who are power-based teams.

“It’s also playing away as they [the matches] all were last summer, so that uncomfortable setting would put you into a good place this week going away from home in a weird pitch and a weird setting.”

He appreciates the fact that the coaches have given him the scope to play a heads-up style within the general team parameters of play. “They’re really good at helping you understand why they want you to do stuff and then it’s just so much easier to make the decisions on the pitch.

“When you understand it is so much easier to understand what they are looking for. Mark [Sexton] with the attack and Richie [Murphy] with the overall game, and then the kicking as well, means you know the pictures you are looking for and it is easier to make those split-second decisions.”

IRELAND: J Nicholson (UCD/Leinster); H Gavin (Galwegians/Connacht), H Cooney (Clontarf/Leinster), J Devine (Corinthians/Connacht), I Anagu (La Rochelle); S Prendergast (Lansdowne/Leinster), F Gunne (Terenure/Leinster); G Hadden (Clontarf/Leinster), G McCarthy (UCD/Leinster, capt), P McCarthy (DUFC/Leinster); C O‘Tighearnaigh (UCD/Leinster), D Mangan (UCD/Leinster); J McNabney (Ballymena/Ulster), R Quinn (Old Crescent/Munster), B Gleeson (Garryowen/Munster).

Replacements: D Sheahan (UCC/Munster), G Morris (Lansdowne/Leinster), F Barrett (Corinthians/Connacht), E O’Connell (UL Bohemians/Munster), J Sheahan (UCC/Munster), O Cawley (Naas/Leinster), H West (Buccaneers/Connacht), H McErlean (Terenure/Leinster).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer