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Bell Draws Inspiration From Former U-20 Captains And Training Time With Senior Squad

Bell Draws Inspiration From Former U-20 Captains And Training Time With Senior Squad

Patreece Bell replaces Jacob Boyd as the Ireland Under-20s' starting tighthead against Wales in Cork tonight ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Ahead of his first start for the Ireland Under-20 Men’s team, IQ Rugby prop Patreece Bell has taken inspiration from the words of two recent U-20 captains, Reuben Crothers and Gus McCarthy.

The pair, who lifted the U-20 Six Nations trophy as Ireland were crowned Grand Slam champions in 2022 and 2023 respectively, returned to the national camp this week to talk about their experiences at this level and offer advice for the rest of the campaign.

Bell is one of four changes to the Ireland U-20 team (sponsored by PwC) that squeezed past Italy by a single point. He is part of a completely new front row to play Wales tonight, following on from his debut in a 30-minute cameo during the last round.

“We had two former U-20 captains (Reuben Crothers and Gus McCarthy) come into camp to share their experiences with us and I thought that was a nice touch,” said the London-born tighthead.

“It gave us even more motivation and showed the current squad just what playing for the Irish Under-20s means.”

Bell was scouted for selection through IQ Rugby, whose Talent ID team noted that he qualified to play for Ireland through his grandparents from County Down. His form, while on loan at Sedgley Park Tigers, earned him his first call-up to training in Dublin.

He has one of the most interesting backstories of the Ireland U-20 newcomers this year, having been born in London and raised in the Isle of Man before moving to board for sixth form at Kirkham Grammar School in Lancashire.

Showing early promise when playing for the local Nomads and Isle of Man Sevens team, Bell trialled at 14 with Sale Sharks, who had a development programme in the Isle of Man, and linked up with their Academy subsequently.

His determination to succeed both in the classroom and on the rugby pitch was shown when he fundraised in 2020 in order to attend Kirkham and make sure he could train more regularly with Sale.

His efforts to raise money, supported by Isle of Man Rugby, included rowing the 172.69km distance from Port Erin to the Sale Sharks training ground on a rowing machine.

The 111kg front rower joined the Sharks’ Senior Academy full-time from July 2022, again showing his resolve to come through the setback of a dislocated shoulder.

Although he was capped by England at U-18 level, he said he has always had ‘more of a personal connection’ to Irish Rugby as he followed the team when he was younger, watching games on television with his grandad.

Explaining his route to the green jersey, he said: “My grandma and grandad are both from County Down, I have always known about the Irish connections, so to now be playing for the country is very special.

When I was on loan at Sedgley Tigers, Ireland started to watch a few of my games and they must have liked what they saw because the coaches then invited me over to a training camp with the Under-20s and things have just gone from there.

“I grew up watching Ireland play rugby with my grandad when I was a kid, so playing for Ireland has always been something that has been on my mind and now that I am doing it, I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity.

“It’s been class so far. I’ve been welcomed into the group so well and I’ve enjoyed coming over and experiencing a different type of environment.”

The Ireland U-20s’ preparations for their third round meeting with Wales have included a training session with Andy Farrell’s senior side. Getting to work alongside the reigning Men’s Six Nations champions was hugely beneficial for Bell and his team-mates.

“We trained with the senior squad last week in Dublin and one of the big messages coming out of that was staying calm in everything we do, our process. That sort of stuck with me,” he admitted.

“Not being frantic, getting into position, our lineout calls, the systems, and just being calm. That’s probably the biggest learning.

“We have to stick to our process and always be calm out there on the field because games can change quickly, and it’s all about how you deal with that. The messages coming out of the senior squad really stuck with me and I’ll try and take those learnings forward.”

Bell got his first taste of the home support at the U-20s’ Cork fortress two weeks ago, as the crowd willed Richie Murphy’s young guns on to a hard-fought 23-22 victory over a resilient Italian team.

That nerve-jangling finish has certainly sharpened minds ahead of the visit of Wales, and now the developing IQ Rugby forward gets a chance to shine under the Virgin Media Park floodlights with his first start in the number 3 shirt.

“It should be a good challenge for us against Wales and I’m excited for it. They pride themselves on having a strong pack and so do we, so it should be interesting in the scrums and such like.

“We’ll have to be focused for the whole match. I’m buzzing to be starting in an Ireland jersey, grateful for the chance and focused,” he added.