Six NationsTeam Selection

Ireland U20s name new frontrow for Friday night’s match with Wales

Ireland forwards coach Aaron Dundon says squad ‘all pretty delighted’ for Richie Murphy on getting Ulster job

Ireland Under-20 head coach Richie Murphy has made four changes and a positional switch to the starting team from the side that squeezed past Italy for Friday night’s game against Wales at Musgrave Park (7.15, RTÉ 2). Murphy will succeed Dan McFarland as interim head coach at Ulster after the tournament.

The backline is retained en masse but there are wholesale alterations in the pack including a new frontrow. Terenure College’s Ben Howard replaces Alex Usanov, former Hartpury hooker Henry Walker, now in the Ulster academy, takes over from Stephen Smyth, while another of the IQ players (Irish qualified), Patreece Bell of the Sale Sharks, will start at tighthead prop.

Usanov and Jacob Boyd drop to the bench. Joe Hopes moves from blindside flanker to secondrow while Seán Edogbo, who scored a brilliant match-winning try against the Italians, is handed the number six jersey. Brian Gleeson hasn’t recovered from an ankle injury, so Shannon’s Luke Murphy continues at number eight.

There are a couple of new faces among the replacements, former Blackrock schoolboy Tom Brigg, who is now in the Ulster academy, and Trinity’s Davy Colbert.


Ireland forwards coach Aaron Dundon said: “So, Henry Walker is coming in to start after a pretty good performance off the bench for us against France. We want to give him a start, the same for Patreece Bell at tighthead. Ben Howard had a couple of runs off the bench, but we want to give the boys an opportunity [to start] who have been training well.

“When we got back from the World Cup last year, one of things in debriefing was that we didn’t use our squad enough, so we are trying to build a bit more depth in our squad, freshen it up and give a few who are training well an opportunity.

Dundon confirmed that Gleeson is currently rehabbing at Munster but was reasonably optimistic that he would be back in time to take a further part. “Hopefully in the next couple of weeks he will be back with us, fingers crossed, but it is kind of good as well because we get to look at players in other positions and build that depth with the long season we have.”

There were many aspects of the performance against Italy that were substandard, 33 missed tackles being one, but the Italians made the scrum an uncomfortable experience for the Irish side at times.

“We are still building our scrum,” said Dundon. “I thought it was okay against France, but we struggled a bit against the Italians. It’s just giving guys an opportunity and seeing what strengths they can bring. Wales did all right in the scrum against Scotland but struggled against England. We are expecting a tough battle.”

Murphy informed the players that he would be seeing out the campaign with them before moving to Ulster for the remainder of the season. “Richie let us know today about him going up to Ulster as interim head coach. He told the players, all pretty delighted for Richie.

“You can see the last few years when he’s been coaching what he’s done with the players and the management, how they play for him. One of the things Richie said, he’s not walking out on us in the Six Nations so that’s testament to the man he is; he’s going to be fully committed to the end of the Six Nations.”

Dundon was asked if it was the right time for Murphy to move into a senior head coaching position. He replied: “Yes, definitely. I think he has been ready for quite a while. He’s really enjoyed the 20s programme, he enjoys working with the young guys, and making them better. He’s a fantastic coach, very ambitious and he wants to keep progressing his career. I look forward to following him now coaching Ulster.”

IRELAND U20: B O’Connor (UCC); F Treacy (Galwegians), W de Klerk (UCD), H Gavin (Galwegians), H McLaughlin (Lansdowne); J Murphy (Clontarf), O Coffey (Blackrock College); B Howard (Terenure College), H Walker (Queen’s), P Bell (Sale Sharks); J Hopes (Queen’s), E O’Connell (UL Bohemian, capt); S Edogbo (UCC), B Ward (Ballynahinch), L Murphy (Shannon).

Replacements: D Sheahan (Cork Constitution), A Usanov (Clontarf); J Boyd (Queen’s); B Corrigan (Old Wesley), T Brigg (Queen’s), T Brophy (Naas), S Naughton (Galway Corinthians), D Colbert (Dublin University).

WALES U20: H Anderson; Harry Rees-Weldon, L Hennessey, Harri Ackerman (capt), W Price; H Wilde, I Davies; J Morse, H Thomas, S Scott; J Green, N Thomas; O Thomas, H Beddall, L de la Rua.

Replacements: W Austin, J Morris, K Hire, O Conquer, W Plessis, R Lewis, H Ford, M Page.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer