McNamara makes four changes to Ireland U20 side for England clash
Flanker Alex Soroka to make his full debut in a rearranged backrow
Ethan McIlroy returns to the right wing for Ireland under-20’s game against England at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Ireland under-20 head coach Noel McNamara has made four changes to his side for Friday night’s meeting with England at Franklin’s Gardens (7.45pm, Sky Sports Mix).
Ulster duo Ethan McIlroy and Hayden Hyde returning to the backline team after both missed the win over wales in Cork through illness .
In the pack, John McKee comes in for his first start of the Championship at hooker while Mark Hernan’s unavailability due to injury has forced a backrow reshuffle, with Dublin University flanker Alex Soroka set for his full debut at this level having come off the bench against Scotland.
Soroka starts at blindside with Seán O’Brien switching to the openside and captain David McCann continuing at the back of the scrum, while the secondrow pairing of Thomas Ahern and Brian Deeny remains unchanged.
McKee packs down in the frontrow alongside Clane RFC product Marcus Hanan, who retains his starting place after an impressive display against Wales, and the ever-present Thomas Clarkson, who has now started each of Ireland’s last eight under-20 Six Nations games at tighthead.
Ulster’s McIlroy, who featured in the opening game win over Scotland, starts on the right wing with Oran McNulty and Andrew Smith continuing in the back three, while Hyde reforms his midfield partnership with Dan Kelly.
Outhalf Jack Crowley has scored 29 points in this year’s Championship and partners Lewis Finlay in Ireland’s unchanged halfback pairing, with the fit-again Max O’Reilly, who is also involved in the Ireland Sevens programme, named among the replacements.
Speaking ahead of the trip to England, McNamara said: “We’re pleased to have won the opening two games, while still recognising that there is room for growth.
“The players are ambitious and they are constantly looking for improvements in their performance, both individually and collectively and that’s the target for Friday night.
“The fallow week was important as it allowed the players to take a breath and recover, as well as review the first block of games and look ahead to this weekend.”
IRELAND U20 (v England, Franklin’s Gardens, Friday, 7.45): Oran McNulty (Galway Corinthians/Connacht); Ethan McIlroy (Queen’s University/Ulster), Dan Kelly (Loughborough University/IQ Rugby), Hayden Hyde (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster), Andrew Smith (Clontarf /Leinster); Jack Crowley (Cork Con/Munster), Lewis Finlay (Malone/Ulster); Marcus Hanan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster); Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster), Brian Deeny (Clontarf/Leinster); Alex Soroka (Dublin University/Leinster), Seán O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt).
Replacements: Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Harry Noonan (Old Wesley/Leinster), Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster), Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster), Cian Prendergast (UCD/Leinster), Ben Murphy (Clontarf/Leinster), Tim Corkery (Lansdowne/Leinster), Max O’Reilly (Dublin University/Leinster).