The Ireland Under-18 Schools coaches will have to wait until the weekend to decide on the fitness of a handful of players before they face host Wales in their final U-18 International Series fixture on Sunday.
But team manager John McKinney is hopeful that they will have a full squad to select from for the third game in the Easter tournament hosted by the Welsh Rugby Union. Wales have already beaten Scotland and Canada and came into the series on the back of a win over England.
The biggest injury victims in Ireland’s 39-20 defeat to a highly physical England side at Parc y Scarlets last night were full-back Stewart Moore (Ballymena Academy/Ulster), lock Ryan Baird (St. Michael’s College/Leinster), flanker and vice-captain Scott Penny (St. Michael’s College/Leinster) and Azur Allison (Ballymena Academy/Ulster). They all had to be replaced with a variety of head knocks and cuts.
“It was a bruising encounter and the medical team is working hard to ensure the coaches have a full squad to select from. We want to end the tournament on a high and we also have a very important ‘capping’ ceremony coming up on Saturday,” explained McKinney.
“All the players have now been capped in the first two matches. The game against England was competitive throughout, but being able to cope with that level of physicality is the next learning curve for this group of players.
“Schoolboy rugby is different to Test match rugby at this level, there is no doubt about that. That is becoming more obvious, which is a bit sad really. These are schoolboys, they are all within that world, and we honour the schools system in Ireland as it is a system that has produced so many internationals.
“There was a lot to be pleased about with the performance against England and their last score put a bit of gloss on the scoreline for them. The whole idea of coming to Wales for this international series was for the players to learn.
“We are getting high level matches played at high speed and full of great intensity. Whilst the results do not really matter, there is still a lot of pride at stake,and as in any game between Ireland and England, it would have been great to get a win.
“The players learned a lot about the need for good game management. Running the ball all the time is fine, but that is where the biggest learning curve comes in. It was a sharp learning curve for all the players and by exposing them to this kind of playing environment, they can only benefit from the overall experience.”
UNDER-18 INTERNATIONAL SERIES – RESULTS SO FAR:
Round 3 Fixtures – Sunday, April 16: Italy v Canada, 12pm; Scotland v England, 2.30pm; Wales v Ireland, 4.15pm – all at the CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach, Caerphilly
Tickets will be available on the gate, priced at £5 for adults (free for under-16s). Supporters will be able to watch all three games on the day. Re-entry is not permitted.