Team manager Lorcan Balfe was relieved to see the Ireland Under-18 Schools side deliver on their potential in Saturday’s 28-24 defeat of Scotland at the Five Nations Festival in West Wales.
At times, it looked as though Ireland, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, were on their way to a third straight loss, especially when they trailed 17-9 at the break.
It was then that coach Terry McMaster unleashed a clutch of first choice players to turn the tide in Ireland’s favour.
“There was an improvement in the second half on what had gone before it,” said team manager Lorcan Balfe afterwards.
“We tried to speed up the game. We wanted to move the ball away from the Scottish pack.
“We didn’t manage to do that in the first-half. It all changed when we got some of our more experienced players on.”
It certainly did. There was a lot to like about the free-wheeling exploits of Ireland’s three-quarter line with Sam Coghlan Murray and Paddy Jackson the standout performers.
“The time is now right to put the hard work into the players’ physical development. At this age, we spend a lot of time working on skill development. That will, hopefully, pay dividends in the long term.”
This Ireland Under-18 Schools squad does not have to look too far to find strong evidence that the Irish way is, at least, as good as the Welsh, English and Scottish methods.
“When we reflect on our Under-20s this year, they were beaten in this competition in Cork by all the sides two years ago,” added Balfe.
“In the intervening period, they developed the sort of physicality needed at international level and everyone knows what happened in the Under-20 Six Nations this year – Ireland won it.”
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