Ireland U-20s seek winning end to campaign

Mike Ruddock’s side are hoping to secure their third win of Six Nations Championship

Ireland’s Tom Daly in actio against France at Dubarry Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Once again coach Mike Ruddock has had to shuffle bodies around for his final match of the series. One of Ruddock's themes this season has been to stitch his team together after the provinces have had their say in selection as they have first call on the under-20 players.

Such is the life of an underage coach and this week Stuart Olding remains in Ulster, allowing Darragh Leader to come into the fullback position. Ruddock has made a number of changes to the side that beat France in last week's outing in Dubarry Park, with Darren Sweetnam also named on the right wing.

Worcester prop Ryan Furness and Ballymena hooker John Andrew make their first starts of the tournament, Lansdowne’s Peter Dooley taking up the loosehead position in an inexperienced front three. Secondrow Seán McCarthy partners John Donnan in the pack, Gavin Thornbury missing out on this occasion

“Despite the fact that we are missing a few front-liners due to injury and unavailability, we have still been able to select a strong side,” said Ruddock.


"We are looking forward to a very physical encounter against the Italian side and are obviously looking to build on our win from last week to take us through into the IRB Junior World Championship. We have added some new combinations to the bench as we look towards the summer."

Ireland narrowly lost away to Wales in the opening match 17-15 before bouncing back with a similarly slim 16-15 victory over England in the second match. But a 21-20 defeat to Scotland in Netherdale all but did for championship hopes, although not for Irish pride as a 22-5 win last weekend over France leave Ireland quits, with two defeats and two wins and third on the table with Wales four wins from four.

Last week England put 50 points on the Italians, so Ruddock should arrive with some confidence. The home side have lost all of their matches and hold a tournament record of two wins from 29 games played.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times