Cillian Gallagher plays down worries that Ireland Under-20s lack ‘grunt’

Flanker emphasises importance of mindset ahead of Six Nations opener in Scotland

Six Nations Under-20 preview: Scotland v Ireland

Venue: Cumbernauld, Friday, 8.30pm

TV: Live on RTÉ 2

Despite the absence of players of the calibre of Rob Lyttle and Calvin Nash, Nigel Carolan’s Ireland side still boasts an exciting, talent-laden backline led by captain and fullback Jack Kelly.

A perspective from outside the camp is that Ireland may lack a little grunt up front compared to last year's Junior World Championship runners-up. One of Ireland's three returning players, the outstanding Cillian Gallagher, happily recovered from injury and once again at blindside flanker, isn't too concerned by the views of others. "At the start of [last] year, we weren't massively rated," he said. "We were written off after the first two games of the Six Nations. And then we had a good end to it.

“I know it’s been said already that we’re not as physically dominant as last year. From the outside looking in, maybe that could be true. But internally from what I’ve seen, I think we can be just as good. I don’t see why not. Maybe physically we’re not as big stats-wise, but I can’t really see that being an issue.

“Last year we had a team that was statistically big but it didn’t mean that we always dominated. When we dominated, it was when we had our mindset right and we came together as a pack and executed everything with unbelievable aggression and persistence. That’s the mentality that I think this pack is going to bring this year.

“Everyone wants to learn all of the time. Everyone wants to improve. It’s nearly an uncomfortable environment because putting yourself out there to learn is vulnerable. But once you’re comfortable being uncomfortable, that’s when a team thrives.”

SCOTLAND: D Graham (Hawick); R Nairn (Harlequins), C Pringle (Stirling County), C Hutchison (Currie), R McCann (Melrose); J Henderson (Glasgow Hawks), A Simmers (Heriot's); G Thornton (Bishop Burton College), F Renwick (Hawick), A Nicol (Stirling County); A Craig (Gloucester), C Hunter-Hill (Stirling County, capt); L Crosbie (Currie), M Fagerson (Glasgow Hawks), T Dodd (Worcester Warriors). Replacements: R Smith (Ayr), D Winning (Boroughmuir), F Bradbury (Stirling County), F Bain (Currie), J Ure (Boroughmuir), B Flockhart (Glasgow Hawks), C Shiel (Currie), S McDowall (Ayr).

IRELAND: J Kelly (Dublin University, capt); J Larmour (St Mary's), G Mullin (UCD), C Frawley (UCD), C Hogan (Dublin University); J McPhillips (Ballynahinch), J Stewart (QUB); J Conway (UL Bohemian), T McElroy (Lansdowne), P Cooper (Belfast Harlequins); F Wycherley (Young Munster), O Dowling (Lansdowne); C Gallagher (Corinthians), P Boyle (Lansdowne), C Doris (St Mary's). Replacements: A Moloney (Shannon), R Mulvihill (UCD), C Connolly (Dublin University), J Regan (UCD), M Rea (QUB), J Lyons (Young Munster), C Fitzgerald (Shannon), T O'Brien (UCD).

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