The Ireland Under-20s, sponsored by PwC, begin their IRB Junior World Championship campaign against a French team that they ran close in the final round of the Six Nations back in March.
2014 IRB JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – POOL B: Monday, June 2
FRANCE UNDER-20s v IRELAND UNDER-20s, QBE Stadium, Auckland, 5.35pm local time/6.35am Irish time (live TG4/Sky Sports 1, red button)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20s’ bad run of luck with injuries has continued with a foot injury robbing prop Craig Trenier of a chance to make his debut at this level against France. Unfortunately the injury is a tournament-ending one for the Terenure tighthead.
Cork Constitution’s Rory Burke will take his place in the front row against the French with Oisin Heffernan added to the replacements bench. Burke and Heffernan both played against France in this year’s Six Nations.
UL Bohemians back rower Jack O’Donoghue captains the side for the first time and following Trenier’s withdrawal, there is just one uncapped player in the starting line-up – Galwegians’ Ciaran Gaffney on the right wing.
O’Donoghue, who takes over the captaincy from the injured Sean O’Brien, is one of four members of the current squad who played in last year’s Junior World Championship in France, the others being Peter Dooley, Peadar Timmins and Alex Wootton.
There are five uncapped players on the bench for the French game – UCD’s Dylan Donnellan and Billy Dardis, Cork Constitution duo Darragh Moloney and Ryan Foley and Young Munster’s Diarmaid Dee.
With a number of injuries before the tournament, Mike Ruddock’s selected team shows seven changes to the side that lost 23-13 to France in March’s final round of the Six Nations.
Full-back Cian Kelleher and centre Dan Goggin are the only survivors in the back-line, while front rowers Dooley, Burke and Max Abbott, lock Ross Molony (a British & Irish Cup winner with Leinster ‘A’) and back rowers O’Donoghue and Timmins are retained in the pack.
Speaking at the tournament launch on Friday, out-half and vice-captain Ross Byrne said: “Preparation has been pretty good, we have had a few injuries but the guys that have come in have brought a lot of energy. So far so good, we are looking sharper every time we train.
“We are here to win and we will take it one game at a time. If we win the first game (against France) then we get a bit of momentum and see where we go from there.”
The Pool B opener between Ireland and France will be broadcast live on TG4 and Sky Sports 1 (red button) on Monday. There will be a full repeat of the game on TG4 at 11.35am Irish time.
Ruddock’s youngsters will then play Wales in Pukekohe on Friday, June 6 before returning to Auckland to face Fiji on Tuesday, June 10.
Meanwhile, the selected France team includes 13 players who started against Ireland in their Grand Slam-clinching win in Tarbes almost three months ago.
The two new inclusions are Ivan Roux from Toulon, who replaces the benched Francois Bouvier at inside centre, and Bordeaux-Bègles flanker Jean-Blaise Lespinasse. He combines with Toulouse tyros Yacouba Camara and Francois Crois in the back row.
Ireland will be eager to gain revenge on the French who scored 10 points in the final eight minutes of the sides’ last meeting, with goal-kicking scrum half Baptiste Serin finishing the game with a 13-point haul.
FRANCE U-20: Pierre Justes (Dax); Kylan Hamdaoui (Clermont Auvergne), Xavier Mignot (Bourgoin), Ivan Roux (Toulon), Lucas Blanc (Bordeaux-Bègles); Brandon Fajardo (Auscitain Armagnac), Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux-Bègles); Oleg Ishchenko (Montpellier), Romain Ruffenach (Biarritz Olympique), Tommy Raynaud (Narbonne), Arthur Iturria (Clermont Auvergne), Jean-Baptiste Singer (Clermont Auvergne), Jean-Blaise Lespinasse (Bordeaux-Bègles), Yacouba Camara (Toulouse), Francois Cros (Toulouse) (capt).
Replacements: Florian Ardiaca (Béziers Herault), Youssef Amrouni (Clermont Auvergne), Simon Courcoul (Clermont Auvergne), Felix Lambey (Lyon Olympique Universitaire), Jean Thomas (Colomiers), Thibault Daubagna (Section Paloise), Francois Bouvier (Toulon), Valentin Saurs (Agen).
IRELAND U-20: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster); Ciaran Gaffney (Galwegians/Connacht), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Dan Goggin (Young Munster/Munster), Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne/Leinster); Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Max Abbott (Cork Constitution/Munster), Rory Burke (Cork Constitution/Munster), Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ross Molony (UCD/Leinster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements: Dylan Donnellan (UCD/Leinster), Denis Coulson (Lansdowne/Leinster), Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Darragh Moloney (Cork Constitution/Munster), Diarmaid Dee (Young Munster/Munster), Ryan Foley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Conor McKeon (Lansdowne/Leinster), Billy Dardis (UCD/Leinster).
Referee: Matt O’Brien (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Grant Stuart (both New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): France U-20s to win: 1/3; Draw: 22/1; Ireland U-20s to win: 11/5
Pre-Match Quotes – Mike Ruddock (Ireland U-20s): “You get a chance to play against the best teams in the world, the best players and peers of the same age group. It’s a wonderful benchmark and a chance to see where they are at.
“And the fact it’s on in New Zealand as well means that the guys have to immerse themselves in that culture, which is fantastic. It’s rugby, rugby, day and night. Everyone wants to talk about it wherever you go, so it’ll be great.
“For a lot of guys it will show them how powerful the game is globally and it will help them to aspire to the levels, in terms of mindset, of the New Zealand players.
“To be honest, I don’t look so much at those outcome goals (tournament finishes). My thoughts are focused on how are we going to beat France. I’ve written my game-plan that I presented to the players before we beat Scotland (in a recent warm-up match).
“I said, ‘look guys, I’m going to ask you to do things today that might not work against Scotland, but are things we want to take in to the French game’. No disrespect to Scotland, but there were things we wanted to try in order to take into the French game.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2013: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 22 France U-20s 5, Dubarry Park; IRB Junior World Championship – 5th-8th Place Play-Off: France U-20s 9 Ireland U-20s 8, Stade Henri Desgrange, La Roche-sur-Yon
2014: RBS U-20 6 Nations: France U-20s 23 Ireland U-20s 13, Stade Maurice Trélut, Tarbes