12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
The Irish have former international scrum-half Michael Bradley as their coach and he is assisted by Mark McDermott, with David Haslett the tour manager. It's a role that Haslett is very familar with having been with the U21 squad when they travelled to Australia for the SANZAR U21 Tournament last season.
Haslett is looking forward to this latest challenge and believes the Irish can give more than a good account of themselves, despite the late-cry-off of one of their most experienced performers..
" Of course John Lyne is a big loss, he is a hugely experienced player at this level, played for us last season, played for the 19's in the World Cup in Chile two years ago, so he is the sort of player you need in this competition. I'm sorry for the player himself, it's a huge huge disappointment for him. As is always the case the injury to John offers an opportunity to Eugene McGovern and I've no doubt he will do the business for us."
Part of that business is facing up to the challenge ahead and in particular the opener against title holders South Africa, Haslett admits it's a daunting prospect but first of all puts their objectives in perspective.
Yes, well in the context of the overall competition the objective primarily has be, to win, it always must be. But that being said the next is to reach the last four, once you do that then you have a chance obviously, of achieving your primary objective.
" Now I really believe we have a very realistic chance of making the last four. We do have a very tough opener. We're up against the holders, number one seeds, but we have a very committed, determined squad. We've had an ideal preparatioin with three games - against Ulster A, a Leinster Development and an Irish Development side - and we had a good Six Nations in which we finished runner-up to Wales."
And it's Wales who might hold the key to Ireland's ambitions. Defeat to South Africa needn't be the end but if they lose that, it could mean that they'll need to beat Wales to remain in the chase for overall honours.
But before that the spectre of South Africa looms large and they look to be a formidable side. They will be led by flanker Schalk Burger who was part of the winning side last year. He is the son of former Springbok lock Schalk Burger.
Burger (junior) is one of seven who remain from last year's side. To win the title they defeated New Zealand and Australia in the semi-finals and final, respectively, the competition held in Johannesburg. Six of the players Burger will lead campaigned in the Vodacom Rugby Super 12 tournament this year. Two were members of Chester Williams' Springbok Sevens side.
But Haslett will not spend too much time looking in awe at their credentials. "We know what we're up against. They're an awesome squad but we're not too bad ourselves. To win we must get on top up front. They will be a big physical pack and we need to dominate and I think we can. We have a strong pack of forwards and in all our games this year no-one managed to get on top of us. We don't have the biggest backs in the world but there's plenty of pace there so we might have few little surprises for them."
Ireland Under 21 Squad.
Michael McComish - Ballymena Simon Crawford - UCD Eugene McGovern - Old Crescent Declan Fitzpatrick - Belfast Harlequins Jason Moran - UCD Rory Best - Belfast Harlequins Kevin Corrigan - UCD David Gannon - UCD Shane O'Connor - Cork Constitution Neil McComb - Dundee University John Muldoon - Galwegians Ciaran Potts - St. Marys College. Niall Ronan - Lansdowne Stephen Keogh - UCC, captain. Glen Telford - Instonians Tommy Bowe - Queens University Peter O'Brien - UCC Richard Lane - UCC John Hearty - Blackrock College Keith Matthews - UL Bohemians Barry Murphy - UL Bohemians Michael Rainey - Glasgow Hawks David McAllister - Terenure College Conor O'Loughlin - Buccaneers Fiach O'Loughlin - Shannon Nicholas McClelland - London Irish