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Irish Under-20s Prepare For Championship Opener

Irish Under-20s Prepare For Championship Opener

The countdown is on in earnest to the return of international rugby to the midlands next Friday when the Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, take on their French counterparts at Dubarry Park in Athlone.

Next Friday’s ESB International Six Nations Under-20 Championship encounter between Ireland and France kicks off at Dubarry Park at 7.30pm as Allen Clarke’s reign as Irish U-20 coach gets underway.

Two seasons ago at the same venue, Ireland upstaged the French, who were not only champions but also fielding an Under-21 squad, in a thrilling encounter in front of a large crowd.

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Indeed, Ireland went on to capture the title themselves then, doing so in style by capturing the Grand Slam. Home supporters will be hoping for more of the same next week.

This is the fourth season that Ireland, through the support of ESB International, has played their Under-21 or Under-20 Six Nations fixtures at the impressive Dubarry Park venue, home of Buccaneers RFC.

The IRFU acknowledges the effort put in by the host club in staging these prestigious matches and also the large crowds who turn out to support Ireland’s young talents.

Ireland’s 30-player squad have been in Athlone this week for a three-day training camp, which included a practice game against Buccaneers.

The squad is coached this season by Ulsterman Clarke, who is also the IRFU’s High Performance Manager.

Nigel Carolan is assistant coach while legendary Ireland and Lions prop Phil Orr is once again team manager.

Supporters who have followed U-20 international rugby in recent seasons will have seen the likes of Keith Earls, Danny Cipriani, Darren Cave, Danny Care, Devin Toner and James Hook up close in action in Athlone before they progressed to Heineken Cup level or on to make full international appearances.

The next crop of rising stars will be paraded in Athlone on February 6 and also on February 27 when defending U-20 Six Nations champions England come to town.

Tickets are now on sale for both matches at ‘The Bounty’ (Dubarry Park – contact Geraldine 086-1732711), Music World (Golden Island, Athlone – phone 090-6474372) and Keenan Sports, Athlone (phone 090-6472030).

Tickets are also available at Noel Mannion Sports, Ballinasloe (090-9646763) and Harten’s Newsagents, Moate (090-6481307).

Best value ticket is the Family package – 2 adults and 2 children admitted to ground for only €;30. Stand tickets are keenly priced at €;20, Ground/covered terracing €;15 and Child/Student/OAP €;10.

Stand tickets are already selling steadily, so early purchase is recommended. Stand tickets are available only from the club itself.

Pre-match tables for Corporate or Groups are available. Please contact Buccaneers’ Administrator Geraldine for details.

* Next Friday’s U-20 international will not be covered live on RTE Television, as RTE Two are showing the Ireland ‘A’ v England Saxons game instead, but there will be a live webcast of the U-20 game on www.rte.ie (island of Ireland only), with commentary by Gary Moran and former Ireland Under-21 coach Mark McDermott.