Senior international Luke Fitzgerald has been named in the Ireland Under-20 team for Friday night’s Six Nations clash with Wales U-20 at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea (kick-off 7.10pm).
The Leinster utility back, who made his Ireland senior debut against the Pacific Islanders in November, will line out at full-back in a side that will be captained by Queens University’s David Pollock.
With the change in the age grade structure this season by the IRB from Under-21 to Under-20, Friday’s game will mark the international debut of the Ireland Under-20 team.
The side also has a new management team at the helm. Former Connacht and Ireland out-half Eric Elwood, who is now assistant coach at Connacht, is hoping to make a mark in his first international representative coaching role. He will be assisted by Dan McFarland, another former Connacht player and the current video analyst with the westerners. The manager of the side is former Ireland and Lions prop Phil Orr.
Commenting on the tournament and the opener against Wales, new boss Elwood said: “We have a talented squad with many of them benefiting from the experience of the Under-19 World Championship in Dubai last year. Our home games at Dubarry Park will be vitally important and we are looking forward to some more of the outstanding support that the Under-21 side received last year from the people of Athlone and Connacht.
“The championship certainly will test us as a squad and Wales, as an opening game, will be every bit as difficult for us as it will be for the senior team. The Welsh Under-20 side have at least 12 players in their squad who have played either Mangers League or Heineken Cup rugby this season.
“Their squad will also contain the majority of the Welsh Under-19 team that won the Grand Slam last year, so it puts the challenge facing us into perspective.
“In saying that, we are looking forward to the game and it will give us a good indication of where the team is at, ahead of the rest of the championship,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
“A win in Wales would certainly put us in a great position for our home game against France next week (at Dubarry Park), which will be another tough test.”
The Ireland Under 20s are sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers
IRELAND UNDER-20 TEAM AND REPLACEMENTS (v Wales U-20, Liberty Stadium, 7.10pm, Friday, February 2):
15 – Luke Fitzgerald (Blackrock College/Leinster)
14 – Shane Monahan (Dublin University/Leinster)
13 – Darre Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
12 – Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers/Connacht)
11 – Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster)
10 – Ian Keatley (UCD/Leinster)
9 – Paul O’Donohue (UCD/Leinster)
1 – David Millard (NEC Harlequins/Exiles)
2 – Richard Sweeney (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
3 – Jamie Hagan (Greystones/Leinster)
4 – Conor McInerney (UCD/Leinster)
5 – Andrew Browne (Galwegians/Connacht)
6 – Thomas Anderson (Dungannon/Ulster)
7 – David Pollock (Queens University/Ulster) (capt)
8 – Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster)
16 – Ger Slattery (Young Munster/Munster)
17 – Ruaidhri Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
18 – Neilus Keogh (UCC/Munster)
19 – Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster)
20 – David Drake (Ballymena/Ulster)
21 – Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
22 – Felix Jones (Seapoint/Leinster)
Coach – Eric Elwood
Assistant Coach – Dan McFarland
Manager – Phil Orr
Under-20 Six Nations Fixtures:
Friday, February 2: Wales U-20 v Ireland U-20, Liberty Stadium, 7.10pm
Friday, February 9: Ireland U-20 v France U-20, Dubarry Park, 7.30pm
Friday, February 23: Ireland U-20 v England U-20, Dubarry Park, 7.30pm
Friday, March 9: Scotland U-20 v Ireland U-20, Falkirk Stadium, 7.30pm
Friday, March 16: Italy U-20 v Ireland U-20, Santa Colomba Stadium, Benevento, tbc