Ireland switch focus to Australia after bruising win
Under-20s hit the ground running against England and now face Australia on Saturday
Aaron Hinkley was yellow carded after this hit on Angus Kernohan during Ireland’s 42-26 win on Tuesday. Photograph; Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images
Despite the bruising nature of the encounter the Ireland Under-20 squad is in reasonably good shape physically after their tumultuous 42-26 victory over England in the opening match of the Junior World Championship in Argentina.
There is no time to dwell in the afterglow of the win as Australia await Noel McNamara’s charges, once again in Santa Fe, on Saturday afternoon (2.30pm, Irish time, live on Eir Sport). Irish number eight Azur Allison will miss the game having sustained a head injury in the first half of the England game. He will follow the return to play protocols.
Five matches in 18 days and a four day turnaround between contests involving England, who have contested the last six World Cups finals at this age-grade, winning three (they beat James Ryan’s Ireland in Manchester in 2016), and Oceania champions, Australia, underline the magnitude of the task that these Irish players face.
McNamara admitted: “The primary focus for us over the course of the next couple of days is recovery. Whilst the pace of the game we would have hoped to have been a bit higher it certainly was a physical encounter. There are plenty of bruised bodies. There are a few guys who will have medicals and need to be reviewed.”
Those are likely to include a couple of impressive debutants in centre Stewart Moore and fullback Iwan Hughes as well as wing Angus Kernohan, all of whom shipped heavy knocks. Kernohan and Hughes were victims of high shots that led to yellow cards for English flanker Aaron Hinkley and outhalf Manu Vunipola.
Replacement hooker Alfie Barbeary’s reckless and highly dangerous tip tackle on outstanding Irish flanker John Hodnett merited the red card he received, an incident that could be tournament ending for the English player.
McNamara was happy with the performance without being impervious to areas in which Ireland will have to improve. “When you look at the game itself and the quality of the opposition you have to be pleased with coming out the right side of the result. I thought the quality of effort and the endeavour showed by the boys throughout the game was absolutely fantastic.
“We made life difficult for ourselves either side of half-time which usually has been a period where we have been quite strong. I thought the resilience to dig in and find the solutions was absolutely first class. There are a number of areas that we feel we can be better and that is not a bad place to be when you consider that we scored 42 points and had a 16 point win.
“Despite the fact that the game broke up a little bit like that, I thought the boys kept their discipline really, really well and obviously it proved costly for England.
“It is going to be really, really important and we are confident that in many ways we have built good habits around (discipline). Equally it is something that we are conscious of and we are going to continue to keep working to ensure that it does become an issue for us in the course of the tournament.
“It was obviously a strange game for England with the three cards; tactically they were trying to slow the game down and almost while away those periods while we were trying to do the opposite.
“Our tactical approach at times could have been a little bit better in how we managed those periods when England were down a player. There were a couple of times when we didn’t exert pressure in the right part of the field. We invited some pressure on ourselves and conceded a couple of tries that we would not be happy with.”
Ireland scored six tries through David McCann (two), Jake Flannery, Stewart Moore, Ben Healy and Hodnett, thereby earning a bonus in victory and there was plenty to admire in individual and collective contributions. The scrum was excellent, Ireland pilfered several throws on England lineouts and they built pressure superbly in taking several opportunities from close range.
There were also flaws, in terms of their defence on the edges and at the breakdown where they coughed up penalties. Australia’s captain and openside flanker Fraser McReight eight excelled in this aspect of the game in their bonus point, 36-12 win over Italy.
McNamara said: “In terms of Australia, one of the things that strikes you is how good their defence is, how physical they are as a side, a very, very strong pack, in particular. There are going to be a few areas that we are going to have to be at the top of our game if we want to come out the right side of the result.”
The Ireland team to face Australia will be announced on Friday.