The Ireland Under-20s are targeting their first away victory of the season as they wrap up the U-20 Six Nations campaign by taking on a table-topping French team. These sides will also face each other during June’s IRB Junior World Championship.
2014 RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, March 14
FRANCE UNDER-20s (1st) v IRELAND UNDER-20s (3rd), Stade Maurice Trélut, Tarbes, 8.55pm local time/7.55pm Irish time (live RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie/live (island of Ireland only))
Team News: Head coach Mike Ruddock has made three personnel changes and one position switch to the PwC-sponsored Ireland Under-20 team to face France in Tarbes.
Cian Kelleher switches from the right wing to full-back with David Busby listed among the replacements and Alex Wootton donning the number 14 jersey.
The UCD half-back combination of Nick McCarthy and Ross Byrne are replaced by Jack Cullen from Bruff and Lansdowne’s Conor McKeon.
Sean O’Brien continues in the role of captain and is again partnered by Ross Molony in the second row.
A final round win for the Ireland Under-20s, who moved up to third in the table after beating Italy 18-0, will secure a top half finish and deny the French the Grand Slam.
Ruddock commented: “The result against Italy got us back on track and this weekend we face a strong French outfit that are going for the Grand Slam.
“We have brought in a couple of new faces and there is an opportunity for these players to show what they can deliver against quality opposition.”
Meanwhile, the French management have made five changes in the personnel to the side that secured an 18-13 victory over the Scotland U-20s in Netherdale.
That result kept the French outfit on course for the Grand Slam, following on from previous wins over England (21-15), Italy (34-0) and Wales (16-10).
Francois Bouvier and Baptiste Serin come into the back-line at inside centre and scrum half respectively, with hooker Romain Ruffenach, lock Arthur Iturria and flanker Yacouba Camara added to the starting pack.
Camara links up with his Toulouse team-mate Francois Cros, the French captain, in the back row with Jean Thomas moving from openside to blindside flanker.
FRANCE U-20: Pierre Justes (US Dax); Kylan Hamdaoui (AS Montferrand), Xavier Mignot (CS Bourgoin Jallieu), Francois Bouvier (St Toulousain), Lucas Blanc (Union Bordeaux Bègles); Brandon Fajardo (FC Auscitain Armagnac), Baptiste Serin (Union Bordeaux Bègles); Oleg Ishchenko (Montpellier HRC), Romain Ruffenach (Biarritz Ol), Tommy Raynaud (RC Narbonne Med), Arthur Iturria (AS Montferrand), Jean-Baptiste Singer (AS Montferrand), Jean Thomas (US Colomiers), Yacouba Camara (St Toulousain), Francois Cros (St Toulousain) (capt).
Replacements: Florian Ardiaca (AS Beziers H), Youssef Amrouni (AS Montferrand), Simon Courcoul (AS Montferrand), Felix Lambey (Lyon OL U), Jean-Blaise Lespinasse (Union Bordeaux Bègles), Thibault Daubagna (Section Paloise), Ivan Roux (RC Toulonnais), Francois Fontaine (AS Montferrand).
IRELAND U-20: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster); Alex Wootton (Garryowen/Munster), Dan Goggin (Young Munster/Munster), Peter Robb (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Adam Byrne (UCD/Leinster); Conor McKeon (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jack Cullen (Bruff/Munster); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), Max Abbott (Cork Constitution/Munster), Rory Burke (Cork Constitution/Munster), Sean O’Brien (Galwegians/Connacht) (capt), Ross Molony (UCD/Leinster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Rory Moloney (Buccaneers/Connacht), Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: Sean McNulty (UCD/Munster), Denis Coulson (Lansdowne/Leinster), Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster), Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster), David Busby (Queen’s University/Ulster).
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan, Stephen Hart (both Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): France U-20s to win: 1/5; Draw: 25/1; Ireland U-20s to win: 16/5
Pre-Match Quotes – Sean O’Brien (Ireland U-20s): “You have to play at a high standard to improve. The better the standard you are playing at the better the player you become. So, definitely it (playing Under-20 international rugby) benefits you as a player.
“It just makes you proud to represent your country. It is great representing your family and friends and knowing that they are proud.
“It is an unbelievable feeling to go out wearing the green jersey and I am always so proud running out onto the pitch in it.”
Pre-Match Links –
Match Facts –
– A French victory will earn them their first Under-20 Six Nations Grand Slam and only a second Championship title (the other was in 2009)
– The France Under-20s have won their last six matches in all tournaments since South Africa beat them at La Roche-sur-Yon in last summer’s IRB Junior World Championships
– Tarbes holds its first major representative match since France ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’ faced off in November 2001
– The Ireland Under-20s beat Italy 18-0 in round 4 but have not won back-to-back games in the tournament since 2012
– Ireland have not won away from home in the Under-20s Six Nations since beating France 13-12 in Grenoble in round 2 in 2012
– France won their most recent encounter with Ireland at the Under-20 level, 9-8 in the Junior World Championship last June to end a three-match losing streak against the Irish youngsters
– Ireland out-half Ross Byrne is the joint second top points scorer in the 2014 tournament so far with 31 points (five conversions and seven penalties). England’s Billy Burns leads the way with 42 points
– Number 8 Jack O’Donoghue – the man-of-the-match against Scotland – is Ireland’s top try scorer thanks to his brace in the opening round. Peadar Timmins, Oisin Heffernan, Cian Kelleher and Adam Byrne have also touched down
Recent Meetings –
2011: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 13 France U-20s 38, Dubarry Park
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