The future looks bright for Irish rugby judging by the way in which the Ireland Under-19s, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, played with ambition and daring to totally dominate Australia in Wednesday’s U-19 international encounter at Cork IT.
Four penalties from James McKinney, allied to a drop goal from Tiernan O’Halloran, drove the Irish Under-19s to a deserved victory over the Australian Schoolboys side.
Ireland Under-19 coach Allen Clarke was certainly satisfied with what he had seen, admitting: “The 15-0 scoreline – four penalties and a drop goal – doesn’t reflect the type of rugby that we played out there.
“We played with width, sometimes too much width, not keeping them honest enough by busting them up the middle.
“But, I think it is a measure of this group, their expectation and their ambition, that we were disappointed we didn’t score tries.”
Despite this, the Jordi Murphy-captained Irish outfit did have to overcome the disadvantage of an inferior build-up to this floodlit match.
“We have had three days together. I think Australia have played four or five games,” continued Clarke.
“So, for us to put in that level of performance showed the work rate and the attitude that has gelled them together over the last few days.
“I think some of the players in certain areas where Ireland has a national need played well.
“For instance, Aaron Conneely, who played at openside flanker, is still only 17-years-old. It is testament to the talent programme and, also, the work that is being done in the schools.
“Brendan Macken, Andrew Conway, Tiernan O’Halloran, James McKinney and David Doyle have all played for the (Ireland) Under-20s in our first warm-up game against the Munster Academy.
“Some of those players will be involved in further warm-up games against Leinster and Ulster Development sides.
“We’ve got very good professionals working towards our National Development Pathway. There is no guarantee all of these players will come into our Academies.
“We hope, by treating the players well, setting high standards and being ambitious with ball in hand, that we are showing them what it takes to become a professional rugby player.
“It bodes well for the future,” added Clarke, who is at the coaching helm of the Ireland Under-20s again this season. The Under-20s will open their Six Nations campaign against Italy at Dubarry Park on Friday, February 5.
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