Head coach Noel McNamara has finalised the Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to face France at Irish Independent Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.15pm). Over 5,500 tickets have already been sold for what promises to be a very entertaining clash in Cork – click here to buy your ticket(s).
There is one change to the side that claimed a 34-14 bonus point win over Italy, with Cork native Sean French coming in at inside centre in place of captain David Hawkshaw who is ruled out with a knee injury. French has been starring for Cork Constitution of late, scoring five tries in two All-Ireland League games.
The Ireland pack is unchanged, with sturdy props Josh Wycherley and Thomas Clarkson again starting each side of Connacht Academy hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin, who is one of the Under-20 Six Nations top try scorers with three so far.
UCD lock Charlie Ryan takes the captaincy reins from Hawkshaw and is partnered again in the engine room by Buccaneers’ Niall Murray. There is also familiar look to the back row unit as Martin Moloney, Scott Penny and UCC number 8 John Hodnett team up for the fourth match in a row.
French forms a new centre partnership with Liam Turner, outside half-backs Ross Byrne and Craig Casey who scored a combined 22 points against Italy. Ulster’s Angus Kernohan, who returned on the right wing in the last round, will get his first taste of the Irish Independent Park atmosphere, alongside Jake Flannery and Jonathan Wren in the back-three.
Dublin University second row Ryan Baird features on the bench and is hoping to win his first Under-20 cap on Friday, as is Ryan Lomas, the Galwegians prop, who returns to the matchday squad in place of Michael Milne who suffered an injury in All-Ireland League action with UCD.
After confirming the starting line-up for the France match, McNamara said:
We were pleased to come home from Italy with a bonus point win, but there are still elements that we feel can be improved on, so it’s about continuing to progress as we move through the tournament.
“The French are still in the hunt for the title and they are a big side, so for us it’s about sticking to our game-plan and looking to match their physicality. The players took so much from the atmosphere at Irish Independent Park on the opening night against England and are itching to get back out there this week.
“It’s really unfortunate for David Hawkshaw to miss out. He’s been in great form on the pitch and has been a fantastic leader of the side. Everyone wishes him well in his recovery. Sean French has done really well in the All-Ireland League over the last few weeks, so we know he has the ability to perform in front of his home crowd in Cork.”
IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v France Under-20s, 2019 Under-20 Six Nations Championship, Irish Independent Park, Cork, Friday, March 8, kick-off 7.15pm):
15. Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
14. Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster)
12. Sean French (Cork Constitution/Munster)
11. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster)
10. Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster)
9. Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster)
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster)
4. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
5. Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht)
6. Martin Moloney (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
7. Scott Penny (UCD/Leinster)
8. John Hodnett (UCC/Munster)
16. John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
17. Callum Reid (Banbridge/Ulster)
18. Ryan Lomas (Galwegians/Connacht) *
19. Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) *
20. David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster)
21. Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
22. Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster)
23. Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster)
* Denotes uncapped player at Under-20 level
IRELAND UNDER-20 2019 U-20 SIX NATIONS RESULTS/FIXTURES:
Friday, February 1:
IRELAND UNDER-20s 35 ENGLAND UNDER-20s 27, Irish Independent Park, Cork
Friday, February 8:
SCOTLAND UNDER-20s 5 IRELAND UNDER-20s 24, Netherdale, Gala RFC, Galashiels
Friday, February 22:
ITALY UNDER-20s 14 IRELAND UNDER-20s 34, Stadio Centro d’Italia – Manlio Scopigno, Rieti
Friday, March 8:
IRELAND UNDER-20s v FRANCE UNDER-20s, Irish Independent Park, Cork, 7.15pm (live RTÉ Two)
Click here to buy your match ticket(s) from Ticketmaster.ie
Friday, March 15:
WALES UNDER-20s v IRELAND UNDER-20s, Zip World Stadium, Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay, 7.05pm (live RTÉ Two)