The Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, for their opening IRB Junior World Championship fixture against France at QBE Stadium in Auckland on Monday (kick-off 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time) has been announced.
UL Bohemians back rower Jack O’Donoghue captains the side for the first time and there are two uncapped players in the starting line-up – Galwegians’ Ciaran Gaffney on the right wing and Terenure’s Craig Trenier at tighthead prop.
O’Donoghue, who takes over the captaincy from the injured Sean O’Brien, is one of four members of the current squad who played in last year’s Junior World Championship in France, the others being Peter Dooley, Peadar Timmins and Alex Wootton.
There are five uncapped players on the bench for the French game – UCD’s Dylan Donnellan and Billy Dardis, Cork Constitution duo Darragh Moloney and Ryan Foley and Young Munster’s Diarmaid Dee.
With a number of injuries before the tournament, Mike Ruddock’s selected team shows eight changes to the side that lost 23-13 to France in March’s final round of the Six Nations.
Full-back Cian Kelleher and centre Dan Goggin are the only survivors in the back-line, while front rowers Dooley and Max Abbott, lock Ross Molony (a British & Irish Cup winner with Leinster ‘A’) and back rowers O’Donoghue and Timmins are retained in the pack.
Speaking at the tournament launch earlier today, out-half and vice-captain Ross Byrne said: “Preparation has been pretty good, we have had a few injuries but the guys that have come in have brought a lot of energy. So far so good, we are looking sharper every time we train.
“We are here to win and we will take it one game at a time. If we win the first game (against France) then we get a bit of momentum and see where we go from there.”
The Pool B opener between Ireland and France will be broadcast live on TG4 and Sky Sports 1 (red button) on Monday. There will be a full repeat of the game on TG4 at 11.35am Irish time.
Ruddock’s youngsters will then play Wales in Pukekohe on Friday, June 6 before returning to Auckland to face Fiji on Tuesday, June 10.
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v France Under-20s, 2014 IRB Junior World Championship – Pool B, QBE Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, Monday, June 2, kick-off 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time):
15. Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
14. Ciaran Gaffney (Galwegians/Connacht) *
13. Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
12. Dan Goggin (Young Munster/Munster)
11. Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster)
10. Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
9. Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster)
1. Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster)
2. Max Abbott (Cork Constitution/Munster)
3. Craig Trenier (Terenure College/Leinster) *
4. Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne/Leinster)
5. Ross Molony (UCD/Leinster)
6. Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster)
7. Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
8. Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt)
16. Dylan Donnellan (UCD/Leinster) *
17. Denis Coulson (Lansdowne/Leinster)
18. Rory Burke (Cork Constitution/Munster)
19. Darragh Moloney (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
20. Diarmaid Dee (Young Munster/Munster) *
21. Ryan Foley (Cork Constitution/Munster) *
22. Conor McKeon (Lansdowne/Leinster)
23. Billy Dardis (UCD/Leinster) *
* Denotes uncapped player at international Under-20 level
IRELAND – POOL B FIXTURES:
Monday, June 2: France v IRELAND, QBE Stadium, Auckland, 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 1, red button) (Buy match tickets)
Friday, June 6: Wales v IRELAND, ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe, 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 1, red button) (Buy match tickets)
Tuesday, June 10: IRELAND v Fiji, QBE Stadium, Auckland, 1.35pm local time/2.35am Irish time (live TG4) (Buy match tickets)
For the full fixtures list, please click here.