Henry McErlean the only change to Ireland U20s’ starting XV vs France

La Rochelle wing Ike Anagu the man to miss out from opening win away to Wales

U20s Six Nations: Ireland vs France, Friday February 10th, Musgrave Park, kick-off 8pm, live on RTÉ 2

Ireland Under-20 head coach Richie Murphy has made one change and two positional switches to the team that beat Wales 44-27 for Friday night’s game against France at Musgrave Park for which there are already 7,000 tickets sold.

Terenure’s Henry McErlean, who made a significant impact as a replacement in Colwyn Bay, has been named at fullback with James Nicholson moving to the right wing and Hugh Gavin shifting to the left in place of La Rochelle’s Ike Anagu. Queen’s University fullback Rory Telfer is promoted to the bench.

One player who delighted in his debut and soaked up the atmosphere was centre John Devine who admitted that “the Welsh fans made it a great experience, especially during the national anthem with how loud they got. There were only 4,000-5,000 there and I could barely hear myself think out in the centre.”


He is the younger brother (22 months) of last year’s Grand Slam-winning scrumhalf Matthew, and a son of former Connacht wing and Offaly Under-21 Gaelic footballer, Mike. As befits sibling rivalry, John offers not an inch when initially discussing his older brother.

Asked whether it’s difficult following his Matthew’s footsteps he smiled: “It’s not that hard when he’s not great himself! He [Matthew] had a good year last year, and he’s helped me a lot, telling me what to do and not to do in the camps. He’s told me it’s my own U-20 year, he’s letting me have my run at it myself.

“We’ve an older brother [Joseph], he won a [Schools] senior cup in Garbally. Me and Matthew have been the most competitive in the house. I remember one day we raced each other to see how fast we could eat our dinner, and then the next day we raced to see how slow we could eat our dinner. We were there at the table for about half an hour eating, we were about 12.

“That was kind of the system we had growing up, and it’ll go on forever, because we live with each other in Galway in college. To be fair to Matthew, since he was the only Connacht player last year, it was a good feat or him to get here. I was at home happy for him, but also thinking at the back of my mind, ‘I have to get here next year’. Thankfully I did, and I got my chance last week.

“Seeing all the school lads here is kind of a big feat for us club lads, and seeing Matthew doing it last year gave me a drive to do it this year.”

Ireland: H McErlean (Terenure/Leinster); J Nicholson (UCD/Leinster), H Cooney (Clontarf/Leinster), J Devine (Corinthians/Connacht), H Gavin (Galwegians/Connacht); 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), Ó Cawley (Naas/Leinster), H West (Buccaneers/Connacht), R Telfer (QUB/Ulster).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer