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Treacy And Berman Pair Up In Midfield For Ireland U-20s’ World Championship Opener

Treacy And Berman Pair Up In Midfield For Ireland U-20s’ World Championship Opener

Ireland captain Evan O'Connell is pictured with his Italian counterpart, Jacopo Botturi, at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town

Head coach Willie Faloon has named the Ireland Under-20 Men’s team (sponsored by PwC) for Saturday’s opening match of the World Rugby U-20 Championship against Italy in Cape Town (kick-off 3.30pm Irish time).

Evan O’Connell will captain the team as they open their Pool B campaign against familiar Six Nations rivals Italy at the DHL Stadium. The match can be watched for free live on RugbyPass TV.

Compared to the Ireland U-20 side that started their final Six Nations game against Scotland, there are six personnel changes, including a debut at openside flanker for Galway Corinthians’ Max Flynn, and two positional switches.

Dublin University’s Davy Colbert makes his first Ireland U-20 start, having appeared twice off the bench previously, while Sam Berman, who played for Terenure College in this year’s Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A final, returns at inside centre.

It will be the fit-again Berman’s first appearance for the Ireland U-20s since last July’s World Rugby U-20 Championship decider against France. He is joined by Finn Treacy, which switches infield from the right wing, in a new-look centre partnership.

Ben O’Connor, Hugo McLaughlin, Jack Murphy, and Oliver Coffey complete the back-line, having started all five matches of Ireland’s unbeaten U-20 Six Nations campaign, along with Treacy.

Prop Patreece Bell from Sale Sharks comes into the front row to make his second start, with Ulster’s Jacob Boyd shifting to the loosehead side. Danny Sheahan, Alan Spicer, and O’Connell also feature in the tight five.

A strong-carrying back row unit is made up of Sean Edogbo, who ran in the decisive try during Ireland’s 23-22 home win over Italy back in February, Flynn, who missed the Six Nations through injury, and Shannon number 8 Luke Murphy.

Faloon has strong options on the bench, with Stephen Smyth, Emmet Calvey, Andrew Sparrow, James McKillop, and Bryn Ward providing the replacements up front.

UL Bohemian scrum half Jake O’Riordan is in line for his Ireland U-20 debut should he come off the bench. Connacht backs Sean Naughton and Hugh Gavin complete the matchday 23.

Speaking about what they have worked on heading into the tournament, Faloon said: “Just subtle changes, a few things just to evolve how we play, as we want to go a little bit deeper in and play a bit harder in.

“Because I’m head coach now (having taken over from Richie Murphy) and the roles have changed, I can lead a little bit more now around that defence where we want to go a little bit harder, you know?

“We’ve tried to kick on a layer from what we did in the Six Nations. We’re working with a development group and there’s always going to be that effort to add layers to what we do.

“We’re trying to do that with every part of the game, from my side. From the defensive point of view, we want to bring on that aspect.”

The former Ulster and Connacht flanker added: “We’ve spoken a lot around the close turnarounds. We’ve got five games, five-day turnarounds, and it’s pretty intense.

“We’re well aware of the challenge from last year and we’ve spoken about it a good bit. The players are excited about it but they know it’s going to be a tough challenge.”

IRELAND UNDER-20 MEN’S Team & Replacements (v Italy Under-20s, 2024 World Rugby Under-20 Championship – Pool B, DHL Stadium, Cape Town, Saturday, June 29, kick-off 4.30pm local time/3.30pm Irish time):

Player/Club/Province –

15. Ben O’Connor (UCC RFC/Munster)
14. Davy Colbert (Dublin University FC/Leinster)
13. Finn Treacy (Galwegians RFC/Connacht)
12. Sam Berman (Terenure College RFC/Leinster)
11. Hugo McLaughlin (Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
10. Jack Murphy (Clontarf FC/Leinster)
9. Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster)
1. Jacob Boyd (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster)
2. Danny Sheahan (Cork Constitution FC/Munster)
3. Patreece Bell (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)
4. Alan Spicer (UCD RFC/Leinster)
5. Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) (capt)
6. Sean Edogbo (UCC RFC/Munster)
7. Max Flynn (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht) *
8. Luke Murphy (Shannon RFC/Munster)


16. Stephen Smyth (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster)
17. Emmet Calvey (Shannon RFC/Munster)
18. Andrew Sparrow (UCD RFC/Leinster)
19. James McKillop (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster)
20. Bryn Ward (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
21. Jake O’Riordan (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) *
22. Sean Naughton (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
23. Hugh Gavin (Galwegians RFC/Connacht)

* Denotes uncapped player at Under-20 level


POOL A: France (1), Wales (6), New Zealand (7), Spain (12)

POOL B: Ireland (2), Australia (5), Georgia (8), Italy (11)

POOL C: South Africa (3), England (4), Argentina (9), Fiji (10)

* Rankings based on last year’s placings (Spain won the 2023 U-20 Trophy)

Match Day 1: Saturday, June 29 – Pool B: Ireland v Italy, DHL Stadium, Cape Town, 4.30pm local time/3.30pm Irish time

Match Day 2: Thursday, July 4 – Pool B: Ireland v Georgia, Danie Craven Stadium, Stellenbosch, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time

Match Day 3: Tuesday, July 9 – Pool B: Ireland v Australia, Athlone Sports Stadium, Cape Town, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time

Match Day 4: Sunday, July 14 (Semi-finals and play-off matches)

Match Day 5: Friday, July 19 (Final and ranking matches)

For more information on the World Rugby U-20 Championship, click here.