Gifted Ireland Under-20 Dan Kelly could switch allegiance to England

Centre will not feature for Ireland in next month’s U-20 Six Nations

 Ireland’s Dan Kelly makes a break against Wales in last year’s Six Nations. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Ireland’s Dan Kelly makes a break against Wales in last year’s Six Nations. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Dan Kelly will not play for Ireland in the upcoming Under-20 Six Nations Championship tournament that takes place in Cardiff next month. The gifted centre, playing a year young, was a member of the unbeaten Irish team that won all three matches in 2020 before their remaining fixtures against Italy and France were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He was offered a place last year in the academy structure in Ireland but wanted to continue his studies at Loughborough University. He signed for Leicester Tigers - he started the European Challenge Cup final defeat to Montpellier - and the club recently announced that he had penned an extension.

Kelly did originally indicate that he wanted to continue playing for Ireland but he hasn’t been to any of the training camps under new Irish 20s coach Richie Murphy. He is not in an extended English 20s squad for the Six Nations but there is an A international between England and Scotland pencilled in for the end of next month. If Kelly played in that match he would no longer be eligible to represent Ireland.

Murphy has conducted a series of training camps with the wider Irish 20s group including members of the Provincial Talent Squads (PTS), the National Talent Squads (NTS) and club players, the latest of which began last Monday.

On Friday, the Irish 20s will take on a Leinster Development XV at Donnybrook (1.0) while seven days later Murphy’s charges will host a Munster Development XV at the HPC in Abbotstown (2.0) before the squad for the Six Nations is announced the following Thursday.

Ireland are unbeaten in their last eight matches in the competition, winning a Grand Slam in 2019 and enjoying victories over Scotland, Wales and England last year. Five capped players from 2020 are eligible for next month’s tournament, the Leinster quartet of Alex Soroka, Tim Corkery, Ben Murphy and Joe McCarthy and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart.

Soroka, who can play secondrow and backrow, made his Leinster debut against the Glasgow Warriors in the Pro14 and then started against Zebre while Kilkenny born outhalf Corkery also has two appearances for Leo Cullen’s side.

Scrumhalf Ben Murphy, a son of coach Richie, was backup to Lewis Finlay last year, coming on in all three Six Nations games and was signed to a short term contract with Munster as injury cover last November. McCarthy, a fine, athletic prospect, also came off the bench in the three games.

Stewart, another player of whom a great deal is expected, is a firebrand in the loose as he so capably demonstrated when starting two of the three matches at hooker.          

Conor McKee (Ulster, scrumhalf), Cathal Forde (Connacht, outhalf), Mark Donnelly (Munster, prop), Sam Illo (Leinster, prop) and Harry Sheridan (Ulster, secondrow) were part of the broader Irish 20s training group last year and will be strong contenders to make the squad that travels to Cardiff.

Jamie Osborne is a probable starter, the 19 year old Naas born centre demonstrated his talent when breaking into the Leinster senior team in January before going on to make five more appearances. He could be joined in the midfield by Ulster’s Ben Carson as the first choice pairing.

Nathan Doak, a scrumhalf like his father, Neil, the former Ulster player and assistant coach now with the Georgian national side, made his Ulster senior debut against Munster in January, 11 years to the day after he led the team out as a mascot against the same opposition. He also played against Leinster in the Rainbow Cup.

Munster’s Alex Kendellen, a promising number eight but who can play across the backrow and who made his senior debut against the Scarlets in March is back with the Irish 20s having been part of the Ireland team that competed in the triangular Sevens tournament with Team GB and the USA in London.

Former Michael’s schoolboy Chris Cosgrave returns to the 20s from the national Sevens programme. Alan Flannery, younger brother of 2019 Grand Slam winner and Munster player Jake, should also make the squad along with Daniel Okeke.

Previously capped players available to the 2021 Ireland Under-20 squad

Player        Province        Position        Ireland U-20 Caps        Starts
Alex Soroka        Leinster                Backrow         2                                           1
Tim Corkery       Leinster                Outhalf           3                                           0
Ben Murphy      Leinster                Scrumhalf       3                                           0
Joe McCarthy    Leinster               Secondrow      3                                           0
Tom Stewart     Ulster                   Hooker             3                                           2   

Warm-up matches

Friday, May 28th: Leinster Development XV v Ireland Under-20, Energia Park, 1.0

Friday, June 4th: Munster Development XV v Ireland Under-20, HPC, Abbotstown, 2.0

2021 Under-20 Six Nations (all games in Cardiff)

Saturday, June 19th: Ireland v Scotland, 2.0

Friday, June 25th: Wales v Ireland, 8.0

Thursday, July 1st: Ireland v England, 8.0

Wednesday, July 7th: Italy v Ireland, 2.0

Tuesday, July 13th: Ireland v France, 4.45

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