Ireland U-20s braced for the ultimate challenge against New Zealand

Nigel Carolan’s side bidding to become the first Irish men’s team to defeat the Kiwis

Nick McCarthy, Gary Ringrose, Ireland U-20shead coach Nigel Carolan and Billy Dardis. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Nick McCarthy, Gary Ringrose, Ireland U-20shead coach Nigel Carolan and Billy Dardis. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Maybe it is an omen, good or bad, but after enduring scorching heat for their opening round wins, the Irish U-20 squad wrapped up their preparations yesterday for a crack at New Zealand with a downpour that must have reminded all of them of home.

Nigel Carolan’s men will bid to become the first Irish men’s side to defeat the aristocrats of the game.

The squad have not trained since backing up the opening round 18-16 win over Argentina with a 24-20 success over Scotland, instead recharging the batteries and yesterday went through a good captain’s run at Fiumicello Rugby, the club in northern Brescia which is hosting them and where the heavens opened during the session. That, and an 8.30pm kick-off in Viadana this evening, should ensure less testing conditions for Ireland on the weather front.

Have threats

The prize at stake is a place in next Monday’s semi-finals and scrum coach John Fogarty, the former Munster, Connacht and Leinster hooker, said the squad know they have a chance to make history.

“They are aware of it. . . it is something they have mentioned and I have no doubt that as a group that they are going to go out there and they are going to go after that.

“We feel we can improve across the board and that is what we are looking to do: make sure that we present in front of New Zealand as best we can and give ourselves a really good opportunity to get to a semi-final.”

New Zealand coach Scott Robertson said they needed to improve on the late 32-29 win over Argentina. He said the death of Jerry Collins and his wife in an accident in France – his cousin Tana Umage is part of the Baby Blacks management – had created an emotional rollercoaster but he felt they let down the memory of the former All Black.

Huge improvement

Queen’s University Belfast clubmen Jack Owens and Jacob Stockdale have been drafted into the Ireland side. Owens will make his first World Rugby U-20 Championship appearance on the right wing with Stockdale coming back into the side on the opposite flank.

Coach Nigel Carolan has made three changes to the side which beat Scotland on Saturday. A planned fourth change had to be reversed when Zack McCall failed a fitness test so Sean McNulty continues at Hooker. Flanker Rory Moloney returns to the starting XV.

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