Having beaten a highly-fancied England side 25-10 in Gloucester last time out, the Ireland Under-20s currently top the Championship table on points difference. Tonight they face a talented Welsh team back at ‘fortress Dubarry Park’, where Ireland are unbeaten at Under-20 level since Wales won there, 11-6, two years ago.
RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, March 12
IRELAND U-20s v WALES U-20s, Dubarry Park, 7.35pm (live RTE Two/RTE website/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been named for their fourth outing of the 2010 RBS Under-20 6 Nations.
Ireland Under-20 coach Allen Clarke is pleased to select from a full panel and for the first time in the Championship, has made changes to his starting line-up.
For Friday’s crucial ESB International tie, recent Connacht debutant Tiernan O’Halloran will make his first start of the campaign on the left wing.
There is also a new look to the front row as Jack O’Connell moves from tighthead to loosehead prop, with Stewart Maguire being promoted from the replacements for his first start, taking over from Bryan Cagney.
There are two new faces on the bench with Leinster’s Risteard Byrne and Gareth Quinn McDonogh from Munster coming into the matchday 22 for the first time.
Meanwhile, Wales Under-20 coach Phil Davies has made two changes to the side that beat France 43-8 a fortnight ago for the crunch clash with Ireland in Athlone.
Loosehead prop Dan Watchurst missed the France game through illness and returns in place of Rhodri Jones, who has sustained an injury, and Scarlets scrum half Gareth Davies makes his first full start for Wales U-20s.
Phil Davies said: “We feel it’s important to keep consistency of selection at this stage in the Championship.
“Rhys Downes has played really well so far and also showed good leadership qualities in partnership with Josh Navidi against France. This change will give Gareth Davies an opportunity to start a game and show what he can do at this level.
“Following the pleasing performance against France last time out, the key challenge for us now is to back up the growing expectation from ourselves and others and show the endurance, technical ability and mental toughness to do it again.”
IRELAND U-20: Andrew Conway (Blackrock College/Leinster); Darren Hudson (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Brendan Macken (Blackrock/Leinster), Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Tiernan O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht); James McKinney (Queen’s University/Ulster), John Cooney (UCD/Leinster); Jack O’Connell (Lansdowne/Leinster), Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Stewart Maguire (Old Belvedere/Leinster), David O’Callaghan (UCC/Munster), Ben Marshall (UCD/Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Patrick Butler (Shannon/Munster).
Replacements: Risteard Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Bryan Cagney (UCC/Munster), Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution/Munster), Robin O’Sullivan (Bective Rangers/Leinster), Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Gareth Quinn McDonogh (Shannon/Munster), Eoin Griffin (Corinthians/Connacht).
WALES U-20: Dan Fish (Cardiff Blues); James Loxton (Cardiff Blues), Ben John (Ospreys), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Kristian Phillips (Ospreys); Matthew Jarvis (Ospreys), Gareth Davies (Scarlets); Dan Watchurst (Newport Gwent Dragons), Rhys Williams (Cardiff Blues), Simon Gardiner (Scarlets), Macauley Cook (Cardiff Blues), Lloyd Peers (Ospreys), Morgan Allen (Pontypool), Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (capt), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Ieuan Davies (Glamorgan Wanderers), Trystan Davies (Scarlets), James Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), Rhys Jenkins (Newport Gwent Dragons), Edward Siggery (Llandovery), Rhys Downes (Cardiff Blues), Dean Gunter (Cardiff Blues).
Referee: Laurent Cardona (France)
Assistant Referees: Cédric Marchat, Laurent Amic (both France)
Television Match Official: Jean-Pierre Pellaprat (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland U-20s to win: 1/3; Draw: 20/1; Wales U-20s to win: 9/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Allen Clarke (Ireland Under-20s) – “Whilst the decision to alternate the squad was given much consideration, the changes reflect the quality of the player group.
“Stewart Maguire has been impressive when he has been launched from the bench and Tiernan O’Halloran has returned to the fine form he was displaying prior to sustaining an injury in a warm-up match in December.
“Gareth (Quinn McDonogh’s) inclusion in the replacements is reward for his performances in the AIB League with Shannon as is that of Risteard Byrne with UCD.
“Planning and preparation has gone well. There is an appetite within the squad to continually develop as individuals and as a team.
“The attention to detail and focus to improve reflect the respect we have for Wales and the squad ambition to build on our performances in the Championship.
“It is the measure of a good side when you can come back from a disappointing defeat and bounce back like we did (against England). To come to England and get a result requires an outstanding team performance and that is what we got.
“Of course we are happy to be at the top of the table, we are where we want to be but we are not getting carried away. We have got Wales next and are looking forward to another tough game.”
Phil Davies (Wales Under-20s) – “This game against Ireland will be the biggest challenge so far for us. We lost narrowly to them at Parc y Scarlets last season and then beat them to gain fifth position at the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan last June.
“Both teams are going into this match on the back of impressive wins with Ireland beating England at Gloucester and our win over France so it should be an exciting match.
“Ireland are a quality side that put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes which is what we’ve been doing but we need to do it again.
“We feel we have gained momentum through this campaign and that is thanks to the cooperation and support shown by the regions and clubs in enabling us to work for the benefit of the players and their development.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2007: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Wales U-20s 15 Ireland U-20s 17, Liberty Stadium
2008: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 6 Wales U-20s 11, Dubarry Park