Head coach Noel McNamara has named the Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to play Italy in their first home fixture of the Under-20 Six Nations at Donnybrook on Friday (kick-off 7.15pm).
There are four changes to the side that lost 34-24 to France in Bordeaux in last Friday’s U-20 Six Nations opener. Tickets for the match against Italy at Donnybrook are available from ticketmaster.ie.
A new back row combination sees Sean Masterson and debutant Matthew Agnew link up with UCC and Munster ‘A’ number 8 Jack O’Sullivan, who was one of Ireland’s best performers in France. Matthew Dalton is involved with Ulster’s GUINNESS PRO14 squad this week, while Aaron Hall is injured.
The all-Leinster tight five remains unchanged, with props Jordan Duggan and Jack Aungier starting either side of hooker Ronan Kelleher, who is set to win his 10th cap at this level, and Cormac Daly and Jack Dunne continuing together in the engine room.
In the backs, Jonny Stewart is on duty with Ulster so Clontarf’s Hugh O’Sullivan comes in for his first Ireland U-20 start at scrum half, having made his debut off the bench last week. He will partner out-half Harry Byrne, who kicked seven points against France.
The final change sees Ulster Academy member and Six Nations debutant Angus Curtis promoted from the replacements to line out alongside captain Tommy O’Brien in the centre, and Michael Silvester, Peter Sullivan and James McCarthy, who scored Ireland’s third try against the French, get a second outing together in the back-three.
There are some alterations to the bench line-up as Wanderers’ Eoghan Clarke, who captained CBC Monkstown last year, and fellow uncapped players Charlie Ryan, Ronan Foley and Patrick Patterson – all from UCD – make the matchday 23. Scrum half Patterson was a try scorer for the students in the Ulster Bank League last weekend.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s encounter with the Azzurrini, McNamara said: “France was a learning experience for all involved, and the challenge now is to build on what went right for us in Bordeaux while also looking to address the areas that could have been better.
“We had a long trip home from France, but the players have looked after themselves and recovered well and they are eager to run out in front of a home crowd this Friday night.
“Italy pushed England all the way and really made them work hard for their win last weekend, and their underage sides are getting stronger and stronger each season, so it will be a challenge, but our players showed a lot of character in the second half against France, and we’ll be looking for them to build on that coming into this game.”
Tickets are available for all three Ireland Under-20 home games from ticketmaster.ie. The Ireland U-20s’ three home clashes are again sponsored by Electric Ireland, and Friday’s tie will be broadcast live on RTE Two, with coverage beginning at 7pm.
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v Italy Under-20s, 2018 Under-20 Six Nations Championship, Donnybrook, Friday, February 9, kick-off 7.15pm):
15. Michael Silvester (Dublin University/Leinster) 5
14. Peter Sullivan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 1
13. Tommy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster) (capt) 6
12. Angus Curtis (Queen’s University/Ulster) 1
11. James McCarthy (UL Bohemians/Munster) 1
10. Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 1
9. Hugh O’Sullivan (Clontarf/Leinster) 1
1. Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster) 5
2. Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster) 9
3. Jack Aungier (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 1
4. Cormac Daly (Clontarf/Leinster) 1
5. Jack Dunne (Dublin University/Leinster) 1
6. Sean Masterson (Corinthians/Connacht) 5
7. Matthew Agnew (Ballymena/Ulster) *
8. Jack O’Sullivan (UCC/Munster) 1
16. Eoghan Clarke (Wanderers/Leinster) *
17. James French (UCC/Munster) 1
18. Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) 1
19. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) *
20. Ronan Foley (UCD/Leinster) *
21. Patrick Patterson (UCD/Leinster) *
22. Conor Dean (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 5
23. Angus Kernohan (Ballymena/Ulster) 1
* Denotes uncapped player at Under-20 level
IRELAND UNDER-20 SIX NATIONS RESULTS/FIXTURES:
France Under-20s 34 Ireland Under-20s 24, Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive, Friday, February 2
Ireland Under-20s v Italy Under-20s, Donnybrook, Friday, February 9, 7.15pm – click here to buy match tickets
Ireland Under-20s v Wales Under-20s, Donnybrook, Friday, February 23, 7.15pm – click here to buy match tickets
Ireland Under-20s v Scotland Under-20s, Donnybrook, Friday, March 9, 7.15pm – click here to buy match tickets
England Under-20s v Ireland Under-20s, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Friday, March 16, 8pm – click here to buy match tickets