The IRFU Under-20 Interprovincial Championship kicks off this evening with defending champions Ulster hosting Munster at Queen’s Arena and Leinster and Connacht clashing at Donnybrook.
2015/16 IRFU UNDER-20 INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 1 – Friday, September 4
ULSTER UNDER-20s v MUNSTER UNDER-20s, Queen’s Arena, 5pm
LEINSTER UNDER-20s v CONNACHT UNDER-20s, Donnybrook, 7.30pm
Ireland Under-20 international Adam McBurney will captain the Ulster U-20s from hooker for their opening round date with Munster. He is joined in the front row by Malone’s Ben Halliday and Peter Cooper from Belfast Harlequins.
Harry Cleland and Hugh Sloan join forces in the second row, with Conall Boomer, Lewis McNamara and Matthew Fisher named as starting loose forwards.
Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy duo Liam Free and Andrew Magrath will direct affairs from half-back, with Kieran Joyce and Alex Kane in midfield. Queen’s University pair Conor Kelly and Robert Lyttle will link up with Jonny Rosborough in the back-three.
Meanwhile, UCC centre Paul Kiernan, the son of former Ireland international Michael Kiernan, will captain the Munster U-20s as they launch their Interpro title bid in Belfast.
Jamie McAleese (centre) and Colm Hogan (winger) from Glenstal Abbey School will start along with Lee Molloy (winger) from Rockwell College and David O’Mahony (full-back) representing Young Munster.
The half-back combination is made up of scrum half John Poland from PBC Cork and Garryowen out-half Bill Johnston, who played for the Munster senior team in last week’s pre-season win over London Irish.
Munster U-20 boss Peter Malone has selected an all-Young Munster front row of Peter Meyer, hooker Shane Fenton and Ben Betts, with former Munster U-18 Clubs captain Sean O’Leary partnering Garryowen’s Barra O’Byrne in the second row.
The back row is made up of Shannon pair Kelvin Browne, at blindside flanker, and number 8 John Foley along with openside Dan Walsh from Cork Constitution who has been named vice-captain.
* There will be a £5 entry charge for adults at the gate, with under-18s gaining free access.
ULSTER U-20: Robert Lyttle (Queen’s University); Conor Kelly (Queen’s University), Alex Kane (Queen’s University), Kieran Joyce (Ballymena), Jonny Rosborough (Ballymena); Andrew Magrath (Ballymena), Liam Free (Queen’s University); Ben Halliday (Malone), Adam McBurney (Ballymena) (capt), Peter Cooper (Belfast Harlequins), Harry Cleland (Instonians), Hugh Sloan (Queen’s University), Conall Boomer (Belfast Harlequins), Lewis McNamara (Instonians), Matthew Fisher (Belfast Harlequins).
Replacements: Tristan King (Malone), Andrew Shaw (Rainey Old Boys), Rory Squires (City of Derry), Ronan McCusker (Rainey Old Boys), Saul Herdman (Queen’s University), Chris Gibson (Ballynahinch), Matthew McDowell (Belfast Harlequins), Matthew Hooks (Armagh).
MUNSTER U-20: David O’Mahony (Young Munster); Colm Hogan (Glenstal Abbey School), Paul Kiernan (UCC) (capt), James McAlleese (Glenstal Abbey School), Lee Molloy (Rockwell College); Bill Johnston (Garryowen), John Poland (Presentation Brothers College); Peter Meyer (Young Munster), Shane Fenton (Young Munster), Ben Betts (Young Munster), Sean O’Leary (Cork Constitution), Barra O’Byrne (Garryowen), Kelvin Browne (Shannon), Dan Walsh (Cork Constitution), John Foley (Shannon).
Replacements: Jordan Prenderville (Shannon), Shane O’Hanlon (Christian Brothers College), Rob O’Donovan (Cork Constitution), Pat Staff (Young Munster), Ronan Murphy (Castletroy College), Johnny Glynn (Clongowes Wood College), Tom McHale (Rockwell College), James O’Connor (Young Munster).
Leinster U-20 team manager Will Sparks is ‘hopeful’ that second row James Ryan will be fit and available to play against Connacht in their Interpro opener at Donnybrook.
Ryan is set to start on the bench with fellow lock Michael Melia, who led Leinster in their valuable hit-out against the Italy U-20s last week, taking over the captaincy duties.
The Leinster youngsters warmed up for the Championship with a 55-17 win over the Exiles before scoring four second half tries in a spirited fightback against the Italians in Calvisano. The match ended in a 31-27 defeat for Hugh Hogan’s charges.
Sparks commented: “There was a twofold purpose to Italy. One was to play the match, obviously, and the second was to spend time together over there. It was a good test and a good camp.
“The team has come together very well. They are quite a close knit bunch. They are incredibly mature and professional. We are very comfortable with them as a squad.”
A notable inclusion on the left wing is Terry Kennedy from St. Mary’s College, who impressed for the Ireland Men’s Sevens squad over the summer months, with Hugo Kean getting the nod ahead of John Molony for the hooker spot.
Coached this season by Elite Player Development Officer Mossy Lawler, the Connacht U-20s took on Munster in a warm-up fixture before facing local opposition. They will be determined to give Leinster a tough test on the quick Donnybrook surface.
The westerners’ selected side includes prop Conor Kenny and lock Peter Claffey, who both played for the Ireland Under-19s against France last season, while Sligo’s Matt Cosgrove caught the eye with the Ireland U-18 Clubs side before captaining the Connacht U-19s last term.
LEINSTER U-20: Hugo Keenan; Matt Byrne, Jack Power, Jimmy O’Brien, Terry Kennedy; Tommy Whittle, Nick Peters; Vakh Abdaladze, Hugo Kean, Adam Coyle, Greg Jones, Michael Melia (capt), Will Connors, David Aspil, Max Deegan.
Replacements: John Molony, James Bollard, Greg McGrath, James Ryan, Neil Reilly, Rowan Osbourne, Matthew Gilsenan, Jake Howlett.
CONNACHT U-20: Tim Carroll; Andrew Lynch, Alan McMahon, Ryan Feehily, Jack Keegan; Simon Keller, Steven Kerins; Matthew Murphy, Caolan Maloney, Conor Kenny, Cillian Gallagher, Peter Claffey (capt), Matt Burke, Gavin Croke, Matt Cosgrove.
Replacements: Conal Slater, Darog Smith, Shane Faulkner, Cian Barry, Neilus Mulvihill, Daire Byrne, Charlie McMicken, Michael Boland.
FIXTURES TO COME:
Friday, September 11 –
CONNACHT U-20s v ULSTER U-20s, the Sportsground, 5pm
MUNSTER U-20s v LEINSTER U-20s, the Mardyke, 7.30pm
Friday, September 18 –
LEINSTER U-20s v ULSTER U-20s, Donnybrook, 7pm
CONNACHT U-20s v MUNSTER U-20s, venue & kick-off time tbc