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McNamara Names Ireland Under-20 Team For Six Nations Opener

Andrew Smith

Winger Andrew Smith starts for the Ireland Under-20s against Scotland in Cork on Friday night ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Head coach Noel McNamara has today named his Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to face Scotland in Friday’s Under-20 Six Nations opener at Irish Independent Park in Cork (kick-off 7.15pm).

Ulster Academy back rower David McCann will captain Ireland as one of four players who featured during last season’s Grand Slam-winning campaign named in McNamara’s first starting XV of the Championship, alongside Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny and Thomas Ahern.

There is a wealth of experience in the pack with Clontarf’s Charlie Ward, another returning player, and Ulster hooker Tom Stewart packing down in the front row alongside Leinster Academy tighthead and vice-captain Clarkson, who started all five of last year’s U-20 Six Nations games.

Deeny and towering Munster Academy lock Ahern are named in the second row with Sean O’Brien and Mark Hernan joining captain McCann in the back row to complete the pack, with a further three Ulster players named in the back-line.

Lewis Finlay starts at scrum half and continues his exciting half-back partnership with Cork Constitution out-half Jack Crowley, who pulled the strings for Ireland Under-20s in their defeat of Munster Development over Christmas.

Ulster Academy centre Hayden Hyde and Dan Kelly, who has come through the IQ Rugby programme, are selected in midfield, with Connacht’s Oran McNulty, Ethan McIlroy of Ulster and Leinster winger Andrew Smith forming the back-three.

Hooker John McKee won seven caps during last season’s U-20 Six Nations and World Rugby U-20 Championship campaigns and is the sixth returning player named in Friday’s matchday 23, as he provides front row cover alongside Ciaran Ryan and Ryan McMahon.

Joe McCarthy and Alexis Soroka will hope to make a big impact off the bench if called upon, while Ben Murphy, Tim Corkery and Luis Faria complete McNamara’s first selection of the 2020 season.

“The players have prepared very well since we first came together before Christmas,” said McNamara. “We had an excellent camp last week in Cork and are looking forward to the challenge that Scotland will bring this Friday night.

“Getting back down to Irish Independent Park is exciting for all involved. It’s a fantastic venue, a really fast surface, and we’re ready to get the campaign underway in front of a partisan home crowd.”

Tickets for Friday night’s visit of Scotland to Irish Independent Park are available to buy from Ticketmaster.ie.

IRELAND UNDER-20 Team & Replacements (v Scotland Under-20s, 2020 Under-20 Six Nations Championship, Irish Independent Park, Friday, January 31, kick-off 7.15pm):

15. Oran McNulty (Millfield School/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Methody College/Queen’s University RFC/Ulster)
13. Dan Kelly (Kirkham Grammar/Loughborough University/IQ Rugby)
12. Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
11. Andrew Smith (St. Michael’s College/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
10. Jack Crowley (Bandon RFC/Cork Constitution FC/Munster)
9. Lewis Finlay (Down High School/Malone RFC/Ulster)
1. Charlie Ward (Tullow RFC/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
2. Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
4. Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
5. Thomas Ahern (Waterpark RFC/Shannon RFC/Munster)
6. Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
7. Mark Hernan (St. Michael’s College/Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
8. David McCann (RBAI/Banbridge RFC/Ulster) (capt)


16. John McKee (Campbell College/Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)
17. Ciaran Ryan (Rockwell College/Cashel RFC/Munster)
18. Ryan McMahon (Clongowes Wood College/Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)
19. Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
20. Alexis Soroka (Belvedere College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
21. Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
22. Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC/Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
23. Luis Faria (Newpark Comprehensive/Dublin University FC/Leinster)