Ireland U-20s know they cannot let New Zealand build big lead
Nigel Carolan makes one change as Ben Betts starts in place of injured prop Conor Kenny
Ireland flanker Greg Jones: “We are just going to have to believe in ourselves and think we can win it. As a group we have that belief.” Photograph: Camerasport/Dave Howarth/Inpho
Ireland flanker Greg Jones knows they will be in difficulty today if they give New Zealand the sort of headstart which Wales enjoyed in the opening game of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship at the Manchester City Academy Stadium.
Nigel Carolan’s side return to the venue for the lunchtime kick-off (1.30pm) against the reigning world champions, hoping to become the first Irish men’s side to defeat New Zealand.
Jones, who was outstanding in the dramatic 26-25 win over Six Nations champions Wales when they came from 17-0 down, said they cannot afford to let New Zealand build a lead, even though his side has now come from behind to win in each of their last four games.
“A few of the lads did play against them last year, so there are a few who know what it is like to face the Haka and that side of it. But for a lot of us it’s just another match. We can’t get too focused on the fact that they are the All Blacks and they are always going to be perceived as the favourites and we are the underdogs.
“We are just going to have to believe in ourselves and think that we can win it. As a group we do have that belief. Certainly on the back of that result [against Wales] it shows that we are capable of beating anyone in this tournament. Hopefully we can do that again.”
There is only one change to the side which defeated Wales. Tighthead prop Conor Kenny has returned home with a shoulder injury picked up early in that game, with Ben Betts, having replaced him on Tuesday evening, in from the start this time.
Trinity’s James Bollard has been called up to the replacements, with Adam Coyle of Naas having been added to the squad in midweek following Kenny’s injury.
Coach Nigel Carolan said the players knew they have the chance to make history.
“For the players it’s the one that they are going to be looking to play. We are going to hopefully take the confidence from the Wales game into this one,” he said.
“We know it is going to take an 80-minute performance if we are going to get a result against them. And therein lies the challenge: to be the first Irish team to beat a New Zealand side. That’s what we are looking forward to.”
New Zealand, who captured the title in Italy last year for the fifth time, opened the defence of their crown with a nine-try 55-0 win over newcomers Georgia on Tuesday evening.
IRELAND U-20: J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins / Ulster); M Byrne (Terenure / Leinster), S Daly (Cork Con / Munster), C O’Brien (Clontarf / Leinster), H Keenan (UCD / Leinster); B Johnston (Garryowen / Munster), S Kerins (Sligo / Connacht); A Porter (UCD / Leinster), A McBurney (Ballymena / Ulster), B Betts (Young Munster / Munster); C Gallagher (Sligo / Connacht), J Ryan (Lansdowne / Leinster); G Jones (UCD / Leinster), D Aspil (Mary’s/ Leinster), M Deegan (Lansdowne / Leinster). Replacements: V O’Brien (Cork Con / Munster), J Bollard (Dublin University / Leinster), V Abdaladze (Clontarf / Leinster), S O’Connor (Cashel / Munster), K Brown (Shannon / Munster), N Saunders (Epsom College / Exile), J McPhillips (Queen’s /Ulster), J O’Brien (UCD / Leinster).
NEW ZEALAND U–20: J Trainor; S Stevenson, P Tomkinson, J Barrett, M Tuitama; S Perofeta, S Nock; C Johnstone, L Apisai (capt), Kautai, Q Strange, I Walker-Leawere, L Jacobson, M Jacobson, M Mikaeletu’u.