Ireland’s preparations for the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship, which is being staged in Wales from June 6 to 22, are well and truly underway – Eric Elwood’s squad had a recent stint at the Aspire fitness centre in Clara, County Offaly, and they have pencilled in warm-up matches against Scotland and an Ireland Under-23 selection.
Eric Elwood has had two contrasting seasons as Ireland Under-20 coach. In his first year in charge, his squad blossomed and secured an historic Six Nations and Grand Slam double.
2008 so far has been up and down for Elwood’s current crop. They posted expected wins over Italy and Scotland at Dubarry Park but dogged displays against France and Wales were not enough to keep hold of their unbeaten run and they wound up the Six Nations championship with a 43-14 defeat to Grand Slam winners England.
Taking the positives out of that campaign and having seen his players get through an amount of work in recent weeks, Elwood is enthusiastic about the fast-approaching Junior World Championship.
But with pool games against Argentina, Tonga and New Zealand, the former Connacht and Ireland out-half knows his squad will be up against it from day one.
“We have targeted the Argentina match as the game for us if we are to get out of the pool in second place,” he told the Irish Times.
“It’s not a case of dismissing Tonga but we have to aspire to win that match anyway. New Zealand have a star-studded squad, comfortably the best in the tournament. We have to be realistic about what can be accomplished.”
A conditioned match against an Under-23 selection, drawn from the Ireland ‘A’ Churchill Cup squad, will help the Under-20s prepare for their June 6 opener against Argentina.
“We’re a small side and to be fair we probably boxed above our weight during the Six Nations. I suppose we won the games that we were expected to win and we’ll be looking to give a good account of ourselves in Wales,” said Elwood, who has been doing plenty of DVD work on Ireland’s opponents.
“We treat the players as young professionals and look for them to develop as players. The attitude has been excellent.”
The Under-20 squad will assemble for a three-day camp next week and they will have another camp the following week before they head for Wales.
Elwood has been thankful for the use of the Aspire (Advanced Sports Performance Ireland) fitness centre in Clara, which was designed and set up by Offaly senior footballer Joe Quinn. The centre has state-of-the-art facilities and is also being used by Triathlon Ireland as their training base for the 2012 Olympics.
Elwood added: “It has all the facilities any squad would require, including accommodation on a 35-acre site. The players trained four times a day and pretty much napped and ate in between. The priority was to develop muscle bulk during that time.
“It’s fair to say they were delighted to see me arrive with a few balls for the rugby part of the camp that weekend.”
For fixture details and ticket details please see below.
IRELAND’S GROUP MATCHES AT THE 2008 IRB JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP:
GROUP A –
Friday, June 6: Argentina v IRELAND, Cardiff RFC, kick-off 7pm
Tuesday, June 10: New Zealand v IRELAND, Cardiff RFC, kick-off 7pm
Saturday, June 14: IRELAND v Tonga, Cardiff RFC, kick-off 3pm
Wednesday, June 18: Eight matches at Wrexham AFC, Cardiff RFC, Rodney Parade, Newport and Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, June 21: Final Day – North Wales – Two matches at Wrexham AFC
Sunday, June 22: Final Day – South Wales – Five play-off matches at Cardiff RFC, Rodney Parade, Newport and Liberty Stadium, Swansea; Championship final at Liberty Stadium, Swansea (kick-off 7pm)
* Please note that all kick-off times are subject to broadcast arrangements
Those keen to book their seat for the biggest international rugby tournament of 2008 can do so via Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/ / tel: 0044 (0)8705 582582).
2008 IRB JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – TICKET DETAILS:
SINGLE TICKET PER MATCHDAY (inclusive of both matches at any one venue on any given matchday):
VENUE PACKAGE (inclusive of all 5 matchdays – 10 matches – at any one venue):
TEAM PACKAGE (nominate your team at the time of purchase and the team package includes all three pool matchdays and the relevant semi-final and finals day for your team):
(Junior Ticket available to children aged 16 and under)
For a full list of fixtures for the 2008 IRB Junior World Championship, please click here.