Jack O’Donoghue returns for Ireland Under-20s
Ross Molony and Jack O’Donoghue will be in the Ireland Under-20 starting line-up when they take on Italy in Dubarry Park tonight. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Ireland Under-20 coach Mike Ruddock has resisted any urge to tinker with the side ahead of the penultimate match in what has been a frustrating and disappointing tournament to date.
Captain Dan Leavy’s absence because of a shoulder injury that will rule him out for the final match too, against France, next week is offset to a degree by the return of Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue, a worthy man of the match in Ireland’s only victory, thus far, in the opening match against Scotland.
Ruddock’s side have been unlucky in terms of the atrocious weather on their previous two visits to Athlone. Having beaten the Scots, Ireland lost 16-0 to Wales and last time out, their 33-9 defeat to England at Franklin’s Gardens flattered the hosts.
However there is no disputing there is plenty of scope for improvement for this Irish group. They need to make better use of possession and be less reliant on the boot of their excellent outhalf, Ross Byrne.
Seán O’Brien takes over the captaincy, while there are a couple of changes to the bench from the English game. It’d be nice to see Cian Kelleher get some ball, ditto for Adam Byrne and fullback David Busby.
The Italians have won just one match too and that like their hosts, came against Scotland. Additionally, the Irish players will be aware these final two games are an opportunity to confirm a place in the travelling party for this June’s IRB World Championship in New Zealand.
IRELAND U-20 : D Busby (QUB); C Kelleher (Lansdowne), D Goggin (Young Munster), P Robb (Old Belvedere), A Byrne (UCD); R Byrne (UCD), N McCarthy (UCD); P Dooley (Lansdowne), M Abbott (Cork Constitution), R Burke (Cork Constitution); S O’Brien (Galwegians, capt), Ross Molony (UCD); P Timmins (UCD), Rory Moloney (Buccaneers), J O’Donohue (UL Bohemian). Replacements: S McNulty (UCD), D Coulson (Lansdowne), O Heffernan (Lansdowne), S Gardiner (Lansdowne), F Taggart (Belfast Harlequins), J Cullen (Bruff), C McKeown (Lansdowne), H Brewer (Terenure College).