The Offload: Ireland’s Under-20s to play new tournament in Italy next month

Bizarre incident in France Sevens as player refuses to put down ball for try

Richie Murphy’s Ireland Under-20 squad that won a Grand Slam in the recent Six Nations Championship are set to play a further four games in Italy next month in a tournament that will take the place of the Junior World Championship – it will return next year having last been played in 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic – as a competitive outlet.

South Africa and Georgia will join Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy with each of the countries playing three pool games and a crossover match. The details of the tournament are expected to be announced during the week, but it appears that Ireland will face France, England, and South Africa in their three matches.

While Ireland will take most of the squad that won all five games in the Six Nations, they will also include several Under-19 internationals with a view to giving a handful of highly rated younger players some experience at this level ahead of next season. The Ireland Under-19 team under Kieran Hallett drew 1-1 in a two-match series against France played in Belfast and Dublin last month.

Murphy’s side will definitely be without wing Chay Mullins, who will be with James Topping’s Men’s Sevens squad during the summer.

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“It’s hard to put into words but it’s been everything I’ve worked for up to now so it’s hard to explain without getting emotional. But it’s certainly gutting to leave the place. It’s hard to imagine that I won’t be stepping on this pitch again. But there’s no point in getting too sad about it because we’ve made such phenomenal memories here and the team I’m leaving is onto good things.” Ultan Dillane on playing his last match for Connacht before heading to La Rochelle.

Try-shy Homer

World Rugby may look to facilitate change following a bizarre incident in the World Series France Sevens pool match at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse between England and Argentina in which the letter of the law was observed but not the spirit.

England’s Will Homer broke away with a little over two minutes remaining and with the Argentineans leading 19-0 but declined to touch down the ball. It is commonplace for a player who crosses the line unopposed to waste a few seconds, dotting down only when an opponent closes in.

Argentina, who needed to win the game to qualify, were down to six players – they had one in the bin – decided not to force Homer to touch down at the behest of their coach Santi Gomez Cora and what followed was a player standing in the in-goal area with the ball in his hands for the final two minutes of the match.

The referee appeared to encourage Homer to touch down, but the player declined to do so as England would also qualify if they lost by less than 16 points. The spectators left the two teams in no doubt as to how they felt, howling their derision.

The match official could have taken action under law 9.7 (d) and awarded a free-kick against England for time wasting of law 9.27, which allows a team to be penalised for acts contrary to good sportsmanship. Canada, who finished level on seven match points with England and Argentina but lost out on points difference due to the on-pitch shenanigans, had every right to be furious.

Nigel Owens weighed in on Twitter: “I don’t think this is good for the game. A player or team must not do anything that is against the spirit of the game. I’m surprised the referee didn’t make him ground the ball.”

There was a touch of karma later in the day when Argentina and England lost their quarter-final matches to Ireland and Samoa respectively.

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2: The number of Tests that Greg McWilliams Ireland Women's team will play in Japan in August. The details are still being finalised, but Ireland have been invited to travel as their hosts look to fine tune their preparations for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in the autumn.

Soccer practice

The France Sevens may have taken up the majority of the pitch space at the Stade Ernest-Wallon but it did not disrupt Toulouse’s Friday training session as they worked out in a private enclave within the grounds separated by a fence ahead of a French Top 14 clash with Brive.

While the forwards were working through lineout drills, the backs got to indulge their inner soccer player as they played a nine-a-side match into goals about two feet high and three feet wide. Many of the participants went for the blunt force trauma of leathering the ball as hard as they could when given half a sight of the goal.

It may not come as a surprise though that the most eye-catching moment of football eloquence was provided in link-up play between Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont. The scrumhalf picked out his halfback partner with a perfectly measured diagonal pass and Ntamack’s clipped cross was thumped home.

Dupont made his mark on more familiar terrain the following day as Toulouse scooted 200 kilometres up the road to play Brive in the French Top 14, the scrumhalf crossing for one of his team’s two tries, the other scored by secondrow Emmanuel Meafou. Thomas Ramos weighed in with 16 points in a game in which tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina was sent off after just 17 minutes.

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