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Ruddock: We Played Well Despite The Scoreline

Ruddock: We Played Well Despite The Scoreline

Ireland Under-20 head coach Mike Ruddock is confident his young squad can learn from their 33-9 defeat to England and get back on track for the remainder of the Six Nations.

The final scoreline does not reflect how well the Ireland Under-20s played at times in Northampton, but England struck for scores at crucial times and ran out four-try winners in the end.

Ireland created a series of try-scoring opportunities but lacked the clinical edge their hosts displayed, with Adam Byrne, Harrison Brewer, Nick McCarthy and Peter Dooley all going close to touching down.

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Mike Ruddock was still pleased with aspects of the performance and admitted that with some better luck, they might have run Wales and England closer in their last two outings.

“You obviously set out to try and win the Six Nations but you also need to build a squad to bring to the Junior World Championship, while you also need to try out players at this level and help them develop,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“And I saw enough in this game, despite the scoreline, to suggest that these boys can play some good rugby. We just need them to be more clinical and, if I’m honest, I think we need to get the rub of the green and that has not happened in our last two matches.”

Ruddock’s side endured a nightmare start on Saturday as having already lost influential lock Sean O’Brien to injury before the game, debutant flanker Michael Triggs had to go off injured in the fourth minute.

Worse followed as Maro Itoje quickly notched England’s opening try and Billy Burns booted eight points to open up a 13-0 lead.

However, as the first half progressed, out-half Ross Byrne began to pull the strings for Ireland in open play and Dooley, Peadar Timmins and captain Dan Leavy stood out in the forward exchanges.

The Irish attack looked dangerous on a number of occasions with backs Peter Robb, Cian Kelleher and David Busby all finding holes in the home defence.

16-9 down at half-time, Ireland’s luck deserted them again when centre Dan Goggin was inches away from intercepting a pass which led to England’s second try of the night.

The visitors piled forward again with scrum half McCarthy sniping through and winger Adam Byrne was denied by a TMO decision in the left corner.

A period of scrum pressure amounted to nothing as well when the unfortunate Goggin knocked on as he took a quick tap from a free-kick in sight of the English line. Once again, the home side countered and scored a try and there was no way back for Ireland.

“There was a critical time after Adam Byrne got over the line but the try wasn’t given and there were a series of scrums,” added Ruddock.

“We were in the ascendancy, there were a load of penalties and then we were given a free-kick, which was a bit strange after having a series of penalties. But we had a rush of blood there, we tapped and went.

“That was a critical moment because we lost the ball, England hacked downfield and scored and the game was over. It was a key moment and part of the learning for young men.

“I said it to the boys afterwards that when you have a team under pressure, if it is the lineout, the scrum or if it is the defence close in on the ruck is suspect, then keep working in that area and don’t let them off the hook by moving away from that area.”

The losses to Wales (16-0) and England leave Ruddock’s charges fourth in the Six Nations table ahead of the visit of Italy to Athlone and a final round trip to current leaders France.