Ireland Under-20s side reshuffled for clash with Baby Blacks

McNamara makes seven changes for final assignment at U-20 World Championship

Ireland v New Zealand, Old Resians Club, Rosario, 1pm (5pm Irish time) - Live on Eir Sport

Ireland head coach Noel McNamara makes seven changes and a positional switch for Ireland's final assignment at the Under-20 World Championship in Argentina as they dispute seventh and eighth place with the Baby Blacks.

Ireland's first-choice props Josh Wycherley and Thomas Clarkson return to the frontrow alongside hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin, while four of the back five in the pack that played in the 30-23 defeat to England on Monday are retained. Clontarf's Brian Deeny replaces number eight Azur Allison.

That selection will certainly add size to the Irish pack as Deeny, a try scorer against the English when introduced as a replacement, is by inclination, a secondrow; it's where he played in the early rounds of the Six Nations Championship.


A training injury (torn ankle ligaments) prevented him from travelling with the squad originally but he made a significant impact in his first match since arriving in Argentina last weekend. His presence will certainly enhance Ireland's line-out options now that the back five essentially contains four locks in captain, Charlie Ryan, Thomas Ahern, Ryan Baird and Deeny.

There are four changes behind the scrum. Jake Flannery reverts to outhalf in place of Ben Healy while Dublin University's Max O'Reilly is named at fullback. There is a sizeable Trinity influence in the three quarter line as it also contains Liam Turner and Rob Russell, the latter named on the left wing. Angus Kernohan will wear the number 14 jersey, while scrumhalf Cormac Foley reprises a role at inside centre.


New Zealand head coach Craig Philpott has kept just six of the starting team that lost 8-7 to Wales last time out, centre Quinn Tupaea, wing Leicester Fainga'anuku, scrumhalf Taufa Funaki, prop Ollie Norris, secondrow Tupo Vaa'i and flanker and captain, Kaylum Boshier.

Six players were not considered due to injury, Samipeni Finau is suspended because of an upgraded red card sanction following an incident in the Welsh game, while a further three players, Rob Cobb, Chay Fihaki and James Thompson were flown out from New Zealand. The Baby Blacks, like Ireland, share a record of two victories in four matches, their other defeat, against South Africa.

Philpott said: “We’re all very disappointed in the results, but we’re also acutely aware that we were only two points away from playing in the top four. Our focus for this last game is if we can nail our skill execution we know we are a very good team and we want to show people that.”

Having reviewed Ireland’s four games in the competition the New Zealand coach argued that they represent a cross between their Celtic brothers, Wales and Scotland. He said: “They [Ireland] have the best kicking percentage in the competition in terms of goal-kicking and they kick the ball a lot so that’s leaning towards Wales but they’re also quite happy to use the ball as well so they’ll play a bit more like Scotland and try and use width. We’re expecting a bit of both.”

Ireland certainly kicked a great deal of ball against England, a sensible option in the dreadful underfoot conditions but for the majority of this tournament and the Six Nations before it, the team’s style has been to attack with ball in hand, something that may return to if the surface permits.

Flannery and Turner have started all 10 of Ireland’s matches this season, a phenomenal achievement physically. McNamara’s side will be looking to emulate the achievement of the 2016 Ireland Under-20 team that beat New Zealand when the teams last met in the tournament.

Patched up for one final time, this remarkable group of young players won’t die wondering as they have demonstrated all season long, even in the occasional defeat; the only intangible whether there is something more substantial than fumes left in the tank to drive them physically.

IRELAND UNDER-20: M O'Reilly (Dublin University); A Kernohan (QUB), L Turner (Dublin University), C Foley (St Mary's College), R Russell (Dublin University); J Flannery (Shannon), C Casey (Shannon); J Wycherley (Young Munster), D Tierney-Martin (Corinthians), T Clarkson (Dublin University); C Ryan (UCD, capt), T Ahern (Shannon); R Baird (Dublin University), R Watters (St Mary's College), B Deeny (Clontarf).

Replacements: D Adamson (Clontarf), M Milne (UCD), C Ward (Clontarf), J McKee (Old Belvedere), N Murray (Buccaneers), L Clohessy (Shannon), A Allison (Ballymena), C Reilly (Buccaneers), B Healy (Garryowen), J Wren (Cork Constitution), D Ryan (UCD), A O'Sullivan (UCD).

NEW ZEALAND UNDER-20: C Forbes; E Nanai Seturo, B Proctor, Q Tupaea, L Fainga'anuku; R Reihana, T Funaki; O Norris, S Klein, F Newell; C Grace, T Vaa'i; K Boshier (capt), J Mua, S Parker.

Referee: A Piardi (Italy).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer