Under-20s Six Nations Championship, England v Ireland, StoneX stadium, Saturday,7.15pm (Live on RTÉ News channel and RTÉ Player)
Richie Murphy’s squad head for Saracens’ home ground looking to maintain their unbeaten record and chase a fourth successive victory in this season’s Six Nations Championship.
The Irish head coach has made a couple of changes to the starting team from the win over Italy.
Ben Brownlee, out with a broken hand, is replaced by Ben Carson who comes in for his first match of the tournament, albeit that he played at this age-grade last year. He forms an all-Banbridge and Ulster midfield partnership with Jude Postlethwaite.
The other alteration is in the backrow where Queen’s University student Lorcan McLoughlin promoted to the starting team following an impressive second -half cameo in the Italian game. He swaps places with James McNabney.
Scott Wilson, who started the first match against Wales, and Aitzol King, who played against France, are named among the replacements as is Diarmuid Mangan, making his first appearance in the match-day 23.
England head coach Alan Dickens makes six changes to the team that hammered Wales last time out, fullback George Hendy the only change behind the scrum with Ewan Richards, Tom Lockett, Lewis Chessum, John Stewart and debutant Tim Hoyt starting in a much-changed pack.
The squad contains a few well-known names including Lucas Brooke, a son of former All Black, Zinzan and Ethan Grayson, the son of ex-England international outhalf, Paul. Will Joseph is a younger brother of England centre, Jonathan.
The Irish pack has been superb in the first three matches both in set piece and general play. They will once again be in familiar territory, giving away a few kilos per head to physically bigger opponents. Ireland secondrow Mark Morrissey offered an insight into how they prepare.
He explained: “So we just focus on getting one-on-ones and running into gaps instead of into double-hits, whether that be with footwork or playing small passes. [It’s about] playing into the space and trying to get under them as well, because if we run in high they’re just going to hold us up and then slow down our ball.
“So we want to play under their hips, resource the ball and play quickly. Most people here can’t really rely on their weight alone so I know after training sessions lots of people are working on their footwork, pre-contact going in and then getting ball transfer.”
Morrissey also calls the lineout, an area in which Ireland have excelled to this point in the tournament.
“I’ve been working hard with Jimmy [Duffy, forwards coach] , just looking at pictures and trying to play heads up as well. It’s not just having a call and banking on it when you go in. I think we’ve been going well so far, so we’ll be looking to keep that part of our game up to good standard.”
Discipline will be key for Ireland to try and deny England not only points but cheap access into Irish territory. The breakdown is another crucial confrontation point as Ireland look to ensure a high-tempo possession game to maximise the fluency of their attacking patterns.
In all three matches to date this young Irish team has played periods of cracking rugby and boasted the courage and skill-sets to prioritise a handling-based game. That places a premium on accuracy, an area in which Ireland will need to improve appreciably from the Italian match.
The good news is that they have the scope to do so, individually and collectively, and if they manage that incremental improvement they possess the wherewithal to win.
ENGLAND UNDER-20: G Hendy (Northampton Saints); D Bailey (Bristol Bears), J Cusick (Leicester Tigers), E Grayson (Northampton Saints), C Cleaves (Harlequins); J Benson (Harlequins), S Edwards (Leicester Tigers); F Baxter (Harlequins), J Stewart (Bath), T Hoyt (Leicester Tigers); L Chessum (Leicester Tigers), T Lockett (Northampton Saints); E Richards (Bath), T Knight (Saracens), E Ilione (Leicester Tigers, capt). Replacements: F Theobald-Thomas (Worcester Warriors), M Dormer (Newcastle Falcons), M Summerfield (London Irish), C Cunningham-South (London Irish), L Brooke (London Irish), N Thomas (Sale Sharks), L Johnson (Newcastle Falcons), Will Joseph (London Irish).
IRELAND UNDER-20: P Campbell (Young Munster); C Mullins (Bristol Bears), J Postlethwaite (Banbridge), B Carson (Banbridge), F Gibbons (UCD); C Tector (Lansdowne), M Devine (Galway Corinthians); J Boyle (UCD), J McCormick (Ballymena), R McGuire (UCD); C O'Tighearnaigh (UCD), M Morrissey (UCD); L McLoughlin (QUB), R Crothers (Ballynahinch, capt), J Culhane (UCD). Replacements: J Hanlon (Ballynahinch), O Michel Lansdowne), S Wilson (QUB), J McNabney (Ballymena), D Mangan (UCD), E Coughlan (Shannon), T Butler (Garryowen), A King (Clontarf).