Ireland under-20s opt for experience for Scotland opener
Five of last year’s Grand Slam-winning squad will start in Cork on Friday evening
Ulster’s David McCann will captain Irfeland under-20s against Scotland on Friday. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Under-20 Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland
Kick-off: 7.15pm, Friday. Venue: Musgrave Park, Cork. On TV: Live on RTÉ 2.
Noel McNamara has chosen five of last year’s under-20 Grand Slam-winning team to start for Ireland in the first match of their defence against Scotland on Friday.
Ulster academy backrow David McCann will captain the team alongside Charlie Ward, Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny and Thomas Ahern.
There is a wealth of experience in the pack with Clontarf loosehead Ward and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart packing down in the front row alongside Leinster academy tighthead and vice-captain Clarkson, who started all five of last year’s Six Nations games.
Deeny and towering Munster academy lock Ahern are named in the second row with Sean O’Brien and Mark Hernan joining captain McCann in the backrow to complete the pack, with a further three Ulster players named in the backline.
Lewis Finlay starts at scrumhalf and continues his exciting halfback partnership with Cork Constitution outhalf Jack Crowley, who pulled the strings for Ireland under-20s in their defeat of Munster Development over Christmas.
Ulster academy centre Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme, are selected in midfield, with Connacht’s Oran McNulty, Ethan McIlroy and Leinster winger Andrew Smith forming the back three.
Hooker John McKee won seven caps during last season’s Under-20 Six Nations and U20 World Championship campaigns and is the sixth returning player named in Friday’s matchday 23, as he provides frontrow cover alongside Ciaran Ryan and Ryan McMahon.
Ireland: Oran McNulty; Ethan McIlroy, Dan Kelly, Hayden Hyde, Andrew Smith; Jack Crowley, Lewis Finlay; Charlie Ward, Tom Stewart, Thomas Clarkson; Brian Deeny, Thomas Ahern; Sean O’Brien, Mark Hernan, David McCann (captain).
Replacements: John McKee, Ciaran Ryan, Ryan McMahon, Joe McCarthy, Alexis Soroka, Ben Murphy, Tim Corkery, Luis Faria.