After being named in the squad for the second year in succession, Connacht star Cathal Forde is itching for Ireland’s U20 Six Nations campaign to get up and running this weekend.
Instead of taking place in the normal spring time window, this year’s Championship is being held during the summer months. There will also be a breakaway from the customary home and away format, with all of the games in the competition being played at Cardiff Arms Park, with Ireland’s opening game against Scotland on Saturday (Kick-off 2pm, live on RTÉ 1).
Haven’t played just a handful of games since the 2020 edition of the U20 Six Nations was ground to a halt due to Covid-q9, with Ireland on the cusp of completing back-to-back Grand Slams, Forde and his team-mates will need to be at their sharpest from the word go in the coming weeks.
Beginning with a tricky encounter against Scotland, Richie Murphy‘s Ireland will play five games in the space of 24 days. This could be a difficult schedule to negotiate, but Forde is grateful for the opportunities that are being afforded to this squad.
“I’d say it will be massively intense, but we haven’t had a chance like this in over a year so we’re looking forward to it. All the boys are really looking forward to it. There’s been a really good energy around the squad. In the gym and in pitch sessions,” he said.
“I think we’re really just looking forward to getting out there and getting a bit of competitive rugby under our belts. We’ve had five Eagles games and we got a few Sevens tournaments in between the Academies, which was good fun, but that’s pretty much it.”
An alum of Coláiste Iognáid in Galway City, Forde has just completed his first year as part of the Connacht Academy. In the past 12 months, he has worked alongside Mossy Lawler and Colm Tucker, both of whom are set to progress into the western Province’s senior set-up from next season onwards.
Tucker is also a part of the Ireland U20s coaching team and is someone that understands Forde’s game inside and out.
“We would have had him [Tucker] from U17s, myself and a few of the other Connacht lads here. It has been good to have a familiar face in the coaching staff. Obviously he was here last year and he has massive experience at this level.”
Despite being in last year’s squad, Forde is yet to make a debut competitive appearance for the Ireland U20s. However, with the playing personnel having changed so rapidly in the meantime, he is expected to play a substantial role in green over the next few weeks.
Whereas Noel McNamara was at the helm in 2020, Murphy is the man in the hot seat for the upcoming campaign. As Ireland’s senior skills and kicking specialist, the Wicklow native is more than just a Head Coach for Forde, who has proven himself to be an adept place-kicker at a variety of different grades.
“Obviously his knowledge of the technical aspect of it [kicking] would be massive. He’d help myself and the other 10s, and those in the back field, with that,” Forde added.