It was noticeable how Ireland Under-20 coach Mike Ruddock convened with a core group of coaches and recent international players after his side’s 29-10 win over the Italy U-20s at a wet Donnybrook on Thursday.
Speaking after the five-try victory, Ruddock said: “The boys have plenty of technical support and plenty of advice from men who have been there before. It is a great opportunity for them.
“I’ve tried to access some of my contacts in Irish rugby from previous times. The likes of Reggie Corrigan and Girvan Dempsey and Colin McEntee have been more than willing to come and help out, alongside myself and Niall Malone.”
This was the start of a long journey for the Ireland Under-20s that will take in the 2011 RBS U-20 6 Nations – Ruddock’s side face a trip to Italy first up – and the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship, which will also be staged in Treviso, Italy next June.
The Irish youngsters were quickly into their stride at Donnybrook, striking for five first half tries, two from their exciting winger Sam Coghlan Murray, in an expansive approach to seeking out space.
“We try to get guys into that space behind the defensive line either out wide or by using good footwork to get into the corridor either side of the defence and offloading if it is on,” explained Ruddock.
“I thought some of our play in the first half, some of the angles we cut were fantastic.
“We have had two small camps for the players trying to get the guys together. I was looking forward to see how they would play.
“In the first half, we played some great rugby and scored some fantastic tries. It looked like we had taken on board some of the skills we are trying to put into the team for how we want to play the game.”
Thereafter, the multiple replacements and the deteriorating weather meant the game got bogged down in the tight. This suited Italy down to the ground, which was where the ball ended up on many occasions.
“Italy changed their whole front row, changed their gameplan and kept the ball tight. Given the change of emphasis, we rarely got the ball in the second half,” added Ruddock, whose son Rhys made his Ireland senior debut against Australia in June.
“In one way, that was perfect. We had shown we could attack. We had scored five tries. Then, we had to defend. We showed the grit and determination to keep a clean sheet in the second half.”
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