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‘It’s Nice Getting Assurance From Joe’ – McCarthy

‘It’s Nice Getting Assurance From Joe’ – McCarthy

Prop Paddy McCarthy barrels through a tackle during the Ireland Under-20s' semi-final victory over host nation South Africa in Cape Town ©INPHO/SteveHaagSports/Darren Stewart

Paddy McCarthy has been one of the standout performers for the Ireland Under-20s (sponsored by PwC) in this summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship in South Africa.

The versatile prop is the younger brother of Leinster and Ireland lock Joe McCarthy, who is currently training at the IRFU High Performance Centre with the national squad as they prepare for the Rugby World Cup.

The powerful 22-year-old is hoping to make the final selection at the end of August, but his thoughts will be with his younger sibling tonight as Paddy packs down at loosehead in Ireland’s World U-20 Championship final clash with France.

Thankful of Joe’s support from back home, Paddy said: “I text Joe every few nights to see how he’s getting on in training. It’s nice getting assurance from him, he tells me how I’m doing or if I’m not doing well! It’s really good having a big brother like that.”

Notably, McCarthy is one of three players in the Ireland U-20 squad who have an older brother in Andy Farrell’s senior set-up. Out-half Sam Prendergast and winger Andrew Osborne are also following in the footsteps of Cian and Jamie respectively.

Front rower McCarthy, a new addition to the Leinster Academy for the 2023/24 season, admits that they all take great inspiration from what their brothers have achieved already in their careers.

“It’s definitely really nice. I know Joe is really good friends with Cian and Jamie, and the three of us are friends. We all have similar relationships, you aspire to be somewhat as good as your older brothers. It motivates you just learning from them as well.”

The Dublin University clubman started all five of Ireland’s Under-20 Six Nations games at tighthead earlier in the year. As an adaptable modern day prop, he has made his mark at loosehead more recently in South Africa.

“I’m enjoying playing loosehead, it’s been going well. Tighthead is tough going with two people scrummaging against you. You probably do get more of a boost,” admitted the 20-year-old Dubliner.

Ronan Foxe has come in as Ireland’s starting tighthead these last few weeks, emerging as one of the unsung heroes. The Westmeath man, who has impressed in the colours of Old Belvedere, is making the most of his recent opportunities having not played during the Grand Slam-winning run.

McCarthy praised his fellow prop, saying: “Foxy has been exceptional. He didn’t play in the Six Nations, he just stuck in there. He’s shown what he’s capable of and the quality of player that he is. It’s a credit to him. He’s been going great, especially in the scrums.”

A big part of Ireland’s success so far in South Africa has been their set-piece play. They have a big pack of forwards who have been able to outmuscle their opponents, especially during the pool win over Australia when they scored 19 unanswered points in the second half.

Richie Murphy’s side have scored more tries direct from a lineout than another other team in the tournament – 12 out of their overall haul of 21. Despite some cards in the earlier rounds, they have tidied up their discipline and are only averaging 9.3 penalties per match.

Since Ireland last reached a World U-20 Championship final back in 2016, they have finished ninth, 11th and eighth on the global stage. In a big improvement in fortunes, the class of 2023 have the team back in the top bracket as title challengers.

Discussing the scrum and what they will face from the well-drilled French pack, McCarthy continued: “The scrum’s been working well. We’ve got two really good units. We’ve got a great front row on the bench. We’re enjoying it.

“France have a very good scrum, we’ll have to be at our best if we want to have a good day (on Friday).

“It’s been a while since the last time we played them. There have been changes in personnel. We think we are better than what we were then (in February) and more organised in our defence.”

One player that was not involved in that 33-31 defeat for France in Cork is Posolo Tuilagi, a physical specimen in his own right. The big second row can cause all sort of problems for opponents, many of whom find it hard to deal with his size and power at 6ft 4in and 145kg.

“You’ve got to recognise his size, he’s an exceptional big player. He’s got good hands as well. Technically, in the contact area, you’d have to identify maybe double hits and things like that, but you can’t focus too much on one player because we want to play our game as well,” insisted McCarthy.

“We are confident, we’ve faced massive players in lots of different teams, England as well, so we’re focusing on our system and haven’t gone over (the top) analysing individuals.”

One constant in McCarthy’s career over the past number of years, from being at school in Blackrock College to playing together in Ireland’s age grade pathway, is current Ireland Under-20 captain Gus McCarthy.

The pair were Leinster Schools Senior Cup winners in March 2022, in a Blackrock team that steamrolled all their rivals. They have since gone on to win an U-20 Grand Slam together with the hope of claiming world honours tonight.

Paddy and hooker Gus share a special bond, with the former acknowledging: “Gus is an exceptional leader, a modern hooker. He’s led the lads so well.

“He’s always focused, I don’t know how he does it, he’s always focused. He doesn’t get bothered by the occasion. The lads love having him as our captain.”