5 Dec, 14:49
The Ireland U19 squad to face Australia Schools at Ravenhill on Saturday 14th December has been announced.
This season, however, they may not have it quite so easy as they look to maintain their high standards.
First up there is a certain amount of rebuilding to be done. Their top points scorer Craig Ronaldson has departed for a professional contract with Connacht, while up front they have lost Tom Sexton and may not see quite as much of Leinster-contracted props Martin Moore and Jack O'Connell.
The arrival of former Munster player Scott Deasy may offset the loss of Ronaldson to a degree, but head coach Mike Ruddock knows he has a challenge on his hands.
"Losing a player of Craig's skills is always a blow and we do have to rebuild in other places, but we have some good guys coming in and we also have some lads stepping up from our Under-20s who won the Fraser McMullen Cup last season," he told IrishRugby.ie.
Ruddock also has one eye on the injury list as he prepares for the Division 1A opener against UCD on Saturday - a side that beat them 29-19 recently in the Leinster Senior League Cup.
"Our top try scorer Cian Aherne and Foster Horan are ruled out and we will also be without Tom Daly and Tom Farrell - both of whom played for the Ireland U-20s last season - for a while as they have some injury concerns.
"UCD are a very exciting team to watch with a lot of quality in their side. They beat us a few weeks back and they also smashed Shannon at the tail end of last season, so we know the challenge that lies in store."
Looking at the season as a whole, he concluded: "There are a lot of twists and turns along the way so we will look to maintain the standards we set last year and after that it comes down to very fine margins."
IrishRugby.ie will have weekly previews and round-ups from the Ulster Bank League this season as well as regular live streams and match highlights on Irish Rugby TV.