Ireland’s capable young guns looking to impress in Bucharest

They begin the IRB Nations Cup with a game against Russia

Ireland's participation in the IRB Nations Cup – they played in the Tiblisi Cup last year – is fundamentally to secure a competitive outlet for what might be considered an Under-25 team.

There are just five capped players in a side that will captained by Dominic Ryan, who also wore the captain's armband during Leinster A's British & Irish Cup success.

Craig Gilroy, Ian Keatley, Paul Marshall, Michael Bent and Tommy O'Donnell have all been capped at senior level while the entire team has donned a green jersey at one point in their respective careers.

Footballing ability

There is plenty of pace and footballing ability in Ireland’s three-quarter line and it’ll be interesting to see how the highly regarded 21-year-old



centre Stuart McCloskey fares.

The challenge for Ireland though will undoubtedly be up front where Russia's brute strength will be a factor.

The Russians have come under the coaching baton of Raphael Saint Andre, a brother of French coach Phillipe, who succeeded Welshman Kingsley Jones.

Ranked 19th in the global standings they still have ambitions of making their way to the Rugby World Cup in England next year through the repechage process. They'll offer a stern examination of Ireland's set piece organisation and power, especially for props, Ulster's Callum Black and Michael Bent of Leinster.

Ireland's back five in the pack have pace and mobility, particularly in the backrow where Ryan, O'Donnell and the Munster-bound, Wexford native Robin Copeland will all have something to prove.

Already qualified

Emerging Ireland coach Dan McFarland has chosen a young bench exemplified in the 21-year-old half-backs JJ Hanrahan and Luke McGrath. Hosts


(17th), who have already qualified for the

World Cup



(20th), who like


are looking to the repechage route, complete the four-team tournament.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer