The Ireland Under-18 Schools team, sponsored by PwC, to play England in the final of the FIRA-AER Under-18 European Championship in Tarbes on Saturday has been named.
Ireland head coach Terry McMaster has made five changes to the team that won through the final by beating hosts France 19-17 at the semi-final stage last weekend. There are four changes in personnel and one positional switch.
Donagh Lawler moves from the second row into the back row in place of Mark Best, with Gavin Thornbury taking up the vacancy left by Lawler at lock.
Stuart Olding comes into the team at out-half in place of Rory Scannell, who has been included among the replacements.
Mark Roche has been promoted from the bench to take the left wing berth, with Cian O’Halloran losing out. The final change sees Rory Scholes named at full-back in place of Jack Fitzpatrick.
Commenting on the game, McMaster said: “The result last weekend was really down to the level of effort that the boys put in and we were delighted to edge a tight game, but we also feel that there is still another level that we can move to and improve.
“It will take exactly that if we are to be successful against what is a good England side. They were strong in the contact area and in the set piece in their game against Wales and prepared to run as well, so it’s a challenge across the park.
“We have made a few changes to the side and it is more a reflection of the strength of the panel and also freshening things up for the particular challenge that England will bring.
“The change in the second row is probably to give us a little bit more aerial capability as England were particularly strong there.
“The boys coming into the backs have all been training well and contributing as part of the squad, so I thought it was a good opportunity to bring them in and it certainly won’t change the level of quality we need to bring against England.
“There has been great support from the locals and also the travelling parents, but it also great that people back home will be able to see the game as it is going to be live on television.”
Saturday’s Championship decider will be broadcast live on Eurosport 2. Coverage begins at 5.30pm.
IRELAND UNDER-18 SCHOOLS Team & Replacements (v England Under-18s, FIRA-AER U-18 European Championship final, Stade Maurice Trelut, Tarbes, Saturday, April 23, kick-off 6.30pm local time/5.30pm Irish time):
15 – Rory Scholes (Campbell College)
14 – Conor McEllin (Blackrock College)
13 – Robert Henshaw (Marist College, Athlone)
12 – Chris Farrell (Campbell College)
11 – Mark Roche (Blackrock College)
10 – Stuart Olding (Belfast Royal Academy)
9 – Luke McGrath (St. Michael’s College) (capt)
1 – Gordon Frayne (Clongowes Wood College)
2 – Bryan Byrne (Clongowes Wood College)
3 – Edward Byrne (Clongowes Wood College)
4 – Jerry Sexton (St. Mary’s College)
5 – Gavin Thornbury (Blackrock College)
6 – Donagh Lawler (St. Michael’s College)
7 – Dan Leavy (St. Michael’s College)
8 – Ryan Murphy (Presentation Brothers College, Cork)
16 – Andrew Murphy (St. Michael’s College)
17 – Thomas Ferrari (Sligo Grammar School)
18 – Chris Taylor (Wallace High School)
19 – Luke Satchwell (The King’s Hospital)
20 – Mark Best (Campbell College)
21 – Jack O’Neill (Castleknock College)
22 – David Shanahan (Belvedere College)
23 – Rory Scannell (Presentation Brothers College, Cork)
24 – Jack Fitzpatrick (Gonzaga College)
25 – Cian O’Halloran (Christian Brothers College, Cork)
26 – Seamus Glynn (Presentation Brothers College, Cork)
Ireland U-18 Schools Management Team:
Terry McMaster – Head Coach
Kenny Hooks – Assistant Coach
Paul Barr – Assistant Coach
Lorcan Balfe – Team Manager
Chris Shields – Strength & Conditioning Coach
Ozzie Fogarty – Team Doctor
David Lyons – Team Physio
Vinny Hammond – Team Analyst
Jessica O’Brien – Team Co-ordinator