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Clarke And Madigan Reflect On Under-20s’ Win

Clarke And Madigan Reflect On Under-20s’ Win

A late penalty from full-back Ian Madigan saw the Ireland Under-20s edge a tight battle with France at Dubarry Park on Friday, and IrishRugby.ie caught up afterwards with coach Allen Clarke and man-of-the-match Madigan to get their thoughts on the game.

A penalty apiece from Conor Murray, Andrew Burke and Ian Madigan saw the Irish Under-20s carve out a hard-fought 9-6 win over their French counterparts in Athlone in Friday.

Although there are elements of Ireland’s game which they need to work on and improve, head coach Allen Clarke was suitably pleased with his side’s winning start to the RBS U-20 6 Nations Championship.

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“It wasn’t the prettiest of games. I think both sides were quite nervy with the ball in hand. We were very aware of being caught deep in our own halves and at times I thought we kicked too much ball away,” he said.

“But we persevered and we’ve got a good resilience in the squad.

“When we did make the line-break and were positive with the ball in hand late on, that’s where the (match-winning) penalty resulted from.”

With time running out and the sides locked together at 6-6, Irish replacement Mark Doyle made a searing break up through midfield and he brought play close to the French try-line.

Under pressure, the visitors duly infringed at ruck time and full-back Madigan stepped forward to land the left-sided kick.

Clarke added: “We’d be disappointed that we didn’t take advantage of some of our line-breaks and were more clinical in that part of the field, from the opposition’s 10-metre line in.

‘But that’s something we’ll work on. We’ll take a lot of confidence from this victory.

“They’re a good bunch of young men and we realise that, as a team, we can really develop.”

Friday’s victory will certainly increase the confidence levels in this young squad, which is captained by Munster back rower Peter O’Mahony.

Next up for the Under-20s is a trip to Italy next weekend and Clarke is quietly confident that further improvements can be made.

“We’re just going to look at it one game at a time. Obviously we’ve got to assess where we are, we’ll learn from this game and we’ll improve from on.

“And Tuesday when we meet up again, we’ll get our heads down and work hard for one another and develop better as a side.”

The former Ulster and Ireland hooker also praised the Dubarry Park faithful for the vocal backing his players received from them.

“(The atmosphere) was fantastic. We gave the support something to shout about and at times when we are off our feet, they motivated and inspired the side.

“Home games…having that support is extremely important and it really does spur the players on,” he added.

Meanwhile, Madigan, who is in his second season in the U-20 squad, spoke afterwards of what this opening night victory means and how important playing for his country is to him.

“(Getting this first win) is great for the team. Hopefully we can build on it and kick on and go to Italy, win that and be top of the table going into the next home game against England,” he explained.

“Playing for the U-20s is huge (for all of us). It’s what you work for, it’s what you train for. It’s everything.

“It’s the reason you do pre-season, it’s the reason you play your Interpros. It’s the reason you don’t go out!”

The Leinster prospect, who has been a regular for Blackrock College in the AIB League this season, has huge respect for the Irish Under-20 management team.

He said Clarke is a man ‘who leaves nothing to go’ and team manager Phil Orr is ‘a great organiser.’