Jump to main content


PWC logo

Murphy Eyes Improvements As World U-20 Championship Adventure Awaits

Murphy Eyes Improvements As World U-20 Championship Adventure Awaits

Bray youngster Jack Murphy was ever-present in the number 10 jersey during Ireland's Under-20 Six Nations campaign earlier this year ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The Ireland Under-20 Men’s squad (sponsored by PwC) are filled with optimism ahead of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, which kicks off in South Africa on Saturday week.

It will be Willie Faloon’s first tournament as head coach since taking over the reins from Richie Murphy. The former Ulster and Connacht flanker has been involved in the Ireland U-20 coaching set-up as defence coach since 2022.

The Ireland U-20s’ current crop finished this year’s U-20 Six Nations campaign unbeaten, with four wins, and a high-scoring draw away to eventual champions England, from their five games.

They came close to winning the Championship for the third straight year, but England edged them out by a single point thanks to a final round bonus point win over France. Out-half Jack Murphy said they are looking to build on the form they showed during the Six Nations.

“We did really well in the Six Nations but there are things that you can pick out that we could have done better. We probably should have been a bit more clinical in our games at times,” admitted Murphy.

“There were times when we could have killed off teams and made it really hard for them to come back. We could probably do a little bit better.

“We are still trying to improve the things that we were good at in the Six Nations, and there are probably a couple of areas that we are trying to improve a bit better.

“Obviously, there are a couple of new rules for the World Cup for us, we are trying to get used to them as well. We have got used to them but at the start, it was new rules flying about.”

Faloon’s charges begin their quest for World Championship glory against Six Nations rivals Italy on Saturday week in Cape Town’s DHL Stadium. The teams’ last clash was a tight six-try thriller in Cork which was decided by Sean Edogbo’s 73rd-minute score.

Ireland then meet Georgia at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Thursday, July 4, before playing Australia, who finished bottom of last month’s inaugural U-20 Rugby Championship, at Cape Town’s Athlone Sports Stadium on Tuesday, July 9.

Munster Academy lock Evan O’Connell will captain the 30-player squad for the tournament. O’Connell, the talismanic Brian Gleeson, hooker Danny Sheahan, the athletic Hugh Gavin, and Sam Berman all featured in last year’s World Rugby U-20 Championship where Ireland finished as runners-up to France.

Murphy, who top scored with 52 points during the U-20 Six Nations, is hoping they can rely on the experiences of those five players in the weeks to come.

“There are still a lot of lads from that team in our team, Brian Gleeson, Hugh Gavin, Danny Sheahan, Sam Berman, and Evan O’Connell as well.  There are loads of lads who understand what it takes to go well in South Africa.

“They are feeding in stuff to the lads who haven’t been there. I haven’t been there myself. There is absolutely great optimism in the team because we know how good we can be. All the lads are excited to get over there, the morale is very high,” he admitted.

It was announced last week that the 19-year-old Murphy will be joining his dad, Ulster head coach Richie, as part of the province’s Academy squad, alongside Wilhelm de Klerk and Berman, who will also make the move up north.

Jack is excited for the new challenge in Belfast, saying: “Last year I was offered a go up to Ulster, to the Academy, but I just thought it was best if I had one more year in the sub-Academy in Leinster and focus on my 20s.

“Then this year it came up again and it was an opportunity for me. At the minute there are a lot of top quality out-halves Leinster have and I kind of struggle to see where I was going to fit in, where I was going to play in the next few years.

“I just thought that there was a good opportunity in Ulster in the out-half position to try and push for the out-half (role) over the next few years.

“I kind of had the decision made in my head before Richie had ended up in Ulster. It was a pretty easy decision for me.”

Another talented number 10 by the name of Jack shone for Ireland at U-20 level back in 2020. Jack Crowley has since gone on to earn 14 Test caps while becoming a key player for Munster, helping them to win the BKT URC title last season and finishing this year as the league’s Players’ Player of the Season and Next-Gen Player of the Season.

His progression provides inspiration for many of the young hopefuls in Faloon’s squad, with Murphy explaining: “I remember watching the 20s for years. I remember Jack (Crowley) playing for the 20s. It was always the case I want to play for the 20s like he did.

“To see him now being so successful early in his career, playing for Ireland, is definitely refreshing to see a young guy in there.

“In rugby you get old quite quickly. If you are good enough when you are 23 or 24 like Jack, you can be in that Irish team. That’s refreshing to see for all the of lads in the 20s.”