Under-20s: Familiarity with France may be a positive
Ireland have room for improvement and their designs are to do just that
Ireland under-20’s Hugo Keenan switches to fullback for game against France. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
France Under-20 v Ireland Under-20, Narbonne, 8.05pm, RTÉ 2
The nature of last week’s defeat to Wales at Donnybrook made for an excruciatingly painful video review on the Monday, something to which the Irish players attested during the week.
Ireland conceded a bucket-load of cheap points, largely through indiscriminate kicking, poor exit strategies from their own 22, and some ill-judged passing.
Injuries to Jack Power and Will Connors haven’t helped matters (Hugo Keenan switches to fullback while Dan Walsh comes in at openside) but, on a positive note, there were aspects of the play that were encouraging.
The majority of players on both sides tonight played against each other in two under-19 internationals in the French rugby headquarters of Marcoussis last year with honours shared at one victory each.
Ireland forwards’ coach Peter Malone explained: “We played them twice in four days (under-19 level) and it’s probably a good experience because we beat them in the first game but probably a truer reflection of the French team came out the second day, they had been beaten on their home turf and there was tears during the anthems.
“We met a passionate French team in full flow four days later. Our energy was a bit low but it was a good experience for the guys. They have been to France, understand the culture and the environment. That will help them a small bit.
“It is going to be a complete step up. We were in Marcoussis and there were about 200 people at the games. We will be in Narbonne with probably the whole town out [to support]. It will be a different atmosphere.”
Malone pointed out that many of Ireland’s shortcomings the last day were fixable and the group has worked hard in training to ensure that there is no repeat.
The visitors have won only once on French soil previously (2012) and it’s three years since France lost a home match in the Six Nation.
FRANCE U-20: R Buros (Pau); G N’Gandebe (RC Massy), D Penaud (Clermont), A Arrate (Biarritz), E Roudil (Stade Rochelais); A Belleau (Toulon), C Kaiser (Narbonne); C Castets (Montpellier, capt), P Mauvaka (Toulouse), M Simutoga (Clermont), F Verhaegue (Toulouse), M Tanguy (Stade Rochelais), M Voisin (Racing 92), J Cancoriet (Clermont), A Jelonch (Castres). Replacements: E El Ansari (RC Massy), P Bourgarit (FC Auch), E Setiano (RC Toulon), T Hannoyer (Castres), J B Grenod (Toulon), A Septar (CA Brive), A Pilati (Bordeaux-Bègles).
IRELAND UNDER-20: H Keenan (Leinster); M Byrne (Leinster), S Daly (Munster), J O’Brien (Leinster), C O’Brien (Leinster); J McPhillips (Ulster), J Poland (Munster); A Porter (Leinster), A McBurney (Ulster), C Kenny (Connacht); P Claffey (Connacht), J Ryan (Leinster, capt); C Gallagher (Connacht), D Walsh (Munster), M Deegan (Leinster). Replacements: S Fenton (Munster), J Bollard (Leinster), C O’Donnell (Connacht), S O’Connor (Munster), K Brown (Munster), S Kerins (Connacht), B Connon (Newcastle Falcons), T Kennedy (Leinster).
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (England).