12 Dec, 11:30
The Ireland Under-19 team to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill this Saturday afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm) has been announced.
Watched by a sizable crowd, which included former Leinster and Wales coach Mike Ruddock and his Irish wife Bernie who were there to support their son Ciaran, this Irish side looked the part and had clearly benefited from their recent training weekends.
They played an attractive brand of rugby, showcasing their ball-handling skills and running ability, while they also held a physical edge over the Italians who were blown away after the break.
Ireland led 6-0 at half-time thanks to two penalties from out-half Andrew Burke, in the sixth-minute and in first half stoppage time. The carved open the Italian defence for their first try after 43 minutes.
Winger Kyle Kirkpatrick did the initial damage as he made a great 30-metre burst, the ball was moved from the left to the right touchline where Gary Foley, who moved to the wing to cover for hamstring injury victim Shane Gahan, took the ball on and beat off three tackles to make the try line.
The conversion was missed but with Johnny Shiels and David Funston performing well in a makeshift Irish midfield, the hosts' greater continuity allowed them to pick off further tries.
Their next one arrived in the 50th-minute when flanker and captain Peter O'Mahoney, who had an excellent game, was able to offload in the tackle for the supporting David McIlwaine to scorch over and score.
Those two touchdowns put the Irish 16-0 ahead and with Belvedere College's Leinster cup-winning captain Thomas Sexton and Adam Macklin, who captained Methody to Ulster cup glory recently, both being introduced off the bench, Charlie McAleese's side had a productive finish.
Flanker Sean Dougall was a menace throughout and he stood out against quite a physical Italian back row. For the third try, Dougall's back row colleague Michael Noone stole the ball at an Italian lineout and a quick string of passes put Kirkpatrick into space and the Ards flyer blew the cover away to score close to the posts.
Burke added the conversion to complete an encouraging display for the Under-19s, who are back in action against France in two weeks' time.
The victory over Italy was all the more notable given that this was the first time that schools and youths players have come together in one Irish squad.
IRELAND UNDER-19: David McIlwaine (Queen's University/Ulster); Johnny Shiels (Coleraine AI/Ulster), Gary Foley (CBC Monkstown/Leinster), Shane Gahan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Kyle Kirkpatrick (Ards/Ulster); Andrew Burke (Crescent College Limerick/Munster), Conor Murray (Young Munster/Munster); Gavin Duffy (UCC/Munster), David McGregor (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Alan Whitten (Instonians/Ulster), Ciaran Ruddock (Swansea/Exiles), Mark Flanagan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O'Mahoney (PBC Cork/Munster) (capt), Sean Dougall (Barnard Castle/Leeds Carnegie), Michael Noone (CBC Monkstown/Leinster).
Replacements used: David Funston (City of Derry/Ulster) for Gahan (19 mins); Adam Macklin (Methody College/Ulster) for Whitten, Thomas Sexton (Belvedere College/Leinster) for McGregor (both 51 mins), Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster) for Duffy, Shane Grannell (CBC Monkstown/Leinster) for Ruddock; Matt Healy (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Murray, Ian McKinley (St. Columba's College/Leinster) for Burke (all 54 mins).
ITALY UNDER-19: N Sintich; S Daupi, C Massarella, S Campagnaro, S Andreucci; PF Dotta, L Martinelli; F Cocivera, G Zoli, A Sacco; F Riedi, J Furno; E Caffini, A Lovotti, L Petillo (capt).
Replacements used: L Contini for Riedi (47 mins), M Maffei for Lovotti (51), E Lauri for Andreucci (54), D Postiglione for Sacco, M Dartora for Campagnaro (both 58), S Dusi for Martinelli (65 mins).
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Ireland U-19 management -
Manager - John McKibbin
Head Coach - Charlie McAleese
Forwards Coach - Bobby Byrne
Conditioning Coach - Ray Egan
Physiotherapist - Shane Collins
Doctor - Tim O'Flanagan
Technical Analyst - Eoin Toolan
Resources - Martin Searson