Head coach Noel McNamara has named the Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to play England in their final match of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Friday (kick-off 8pm).
There are four personnel changes and one positional switch to the side that started last Friday’s 30-25 bonus point win over Scotland, who have been the only team to defeat England so far in the tournament.
It promises to be an exciting and drama-filled final Friday night in the U-20 Six Nations, as leaders France, who travel to Wales, and England are currently tied on 15 points at the top of the table. Behind them, third-placed Ireland (12 points) still have an outside chance of winning the title.
The Irish front row contains three of the changes with Wanderers’ Eoghan Clarke replacing the injured Ronan Kelleher at hooker, while props Jordan Duggan and Jack Aungier also step up from the bench, swapping with James French and Tom O’Toole.
Letterkenny native Joe Dunleavy keeps his place at blindside flanker after making his U-20 debut against Scotland. The back row is completed by Matthew Agnew and talismanic number 8 Jack O’Sullivan, who has scored four tries and claimed two man-of-the-match awards in the last two rounds.
Matthew Dalton, a try scorer against the Scots like Agnew and O’Sullivan, continues in the second row alongside Dublin University’s Jack Dunne, while recent new cap James Hume – another of the sizable Ulster contingent – returns to the back-line, this time lining out on the right wing with Angus Kernohan switching to the left and Michael Silvester anchoring the back-three once more.
The remainder of the back-line is unchanged with captain Tommy O’Brien winning his tenth Ireland U-20 cap at outside centre. He is partnered again by Ulster Academy member Angus Curtis, while the all-Leinster half-back pairing of Harry Byrne and Hugh O’Sullivan gets its third outing of the Championship.
O’Sullivan’s Clontarf club-mate, Mullingar man Sean O’Brien, is standing by to make his U-20 international bow as an outside back replacement. If introduced, he will become Ireland’s 22nd debutant of the 2018 U-20 Six Nations campaign.
After confirming his final matchday squad of the tournament, Noel McNamara said: “It was good to come away with the bonus point win last Friday in Donnybrook, and while there are areas of our game we can improve on, the result has left us in a good place ahead of Friday’s fixture.
“England are always a stiff challenge at this level and it’s set to be a great opportunity for the players, but one I know they are excited for.”
The Ireland Under-20s’ final round showdown with England will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action, with coverage beginning at 7.45pm. Click here to buy match tickets for Friday night’s double header in Coventry involving the England and Ireland Women’s and U-20 sides.
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v England Under-20s, 2018 Under-20 Six Nations Championship, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Friday, March 16, kick-off 8pm):
15. Michael Silvester (Dublin University/Leinster) 8
14. James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) 2
13. Tommy O’Brien (UCD/Leinster) (capt) 9
12. Angus Curtis (Queen’s University/Ulster) 4
11. Angus Kernohan (Ballymena/Ulster) 4
10. Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster) 3
9. Hugh O’Sullivan (Clontarf/Leinster) 3
1. Jordan Duggan (Naas/Leinster) 8
2. Eoghan Clarke (Wanderers/Leinster) 2
3. Jack Aungier (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 4
4. Matthew Dalton (Malone/Ulster) 2
5. Jack Dunne (Dublin University/Leinster) 4
6. Joe Dunleavy (Malone/Ulster) 1
7. Matthew Agnew (Ballymena/Ulster) 3
8. Jack O’Sullivan (UCC/Munster) 4
16. Diarmuid Barron (Garryowen/Munster) 4
17. James French (UCC/Munster) 4
18. Tom O’Toole (Banbridge/Ulster) 4
19. Ronan Coffey (Shannon/Munster) 1
20. Sean Masterson (Corinthians/Connacht) 7
21. Jonny Stewart (Queen’s University/Ulster) 13
22. Conor Dean (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 8
23. Sean O’Brien (Clontarf/Leinster) *
* 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 38 Italy Under-20s 34, Donnybrook, Friday, February 9
Ireland Under-20s 38 Wales Under-20s 41, Donnybrook, Friday, February 23
Ireland Under-20s 30 Scotland Under-20s 25, Donnybrook, Friday, March 9
England Under-20s v Ireland Under-20s, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Friday, March 16, 8pm – click here to buy match tickets