The Ireland and France Under-20s team both lost last time out in the Six Nations Championship, so an ultra competitive encounter is expected when the two sides meet under the Dubarry Park floodlights tonight.
2013 RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, March 8
IRELAND UNDER-20s (4th) v FRANCE UNDER-20s (5th), Dubarry Park, Athlone, 7.45pm (live RTÉ Two/RTÉ website)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to face France at Dubarry Park on Friday night has been named.
Head coach Mike Ruddock has made two changes in personnel, with the return of Stuart Olding and Conor Joyce from RaboDirect PRO12 duty with Ulster.
Olding, who touched down against both Glasgow Warriors and Benetton Treviso, starts at full-back in a back-three combination that is completed by winger David Panter and Rory Scholes.
Joyce, a starter for the province against Glasgow, has been named at blindside flanker. Darragh Leader and Peadar Timmins will resume on the replacements bench.
Ruddock’s charges are chasing their second home victory in this year’s Six Nations, with centre Tom Daly having kicked them to a dramatic win over England last month.
Friday’s Under-20 match will broadcast live from Athlone on RTÉ Two, with coverage starting at 7.30pm.
Meanwhile, France have made eight changes in personnel to the team that started their 40-10 defeat to England in Worcester last time out.
The highly-rated Gaël Fickou, who is still just 18, is one of the players retained in the back-line. The Toulouse starlet is joined by Thibaut Regard in the centre, with Nicolas Metge and Florian Vialelle also coming into the back-three.
Narbonne scrum half Yohan Domenech has also been given an opportunity to impress alongside Vincent Mallet, while Racing Metro’s Khatchik Vartanov is the newcomer in the front row.
Team captain Paul Jedrasiak will have his Clermont Auvergne club-mate Jean-Baptiste Singer for company in the second row, with Mathieu Babillot moving to number 8 in a back row completed by Jean-Blaise Lespinasse and Francois Cros.
The French youngsters, coached by Gérald Bastide and Didier Retiere, will be looking to finish the Six Nations as strongly as possible ahead of their hosting of the IRB Junior World Championship in June.
* Match tickets are on sale at the Bounty. Family tickets are excellent value at €;30 for two adults and two children in the covered terrace. Discount vouchers are available to schools.
Stand tickets cost €;20 each and are selling fast already, as is the pre-match function where you can enjoy a three-course meal with wine and also have a reserved seat in the stand for only €;40 per person.
Group bookings are welcome. All pre-match function and/or match ticket enquiries/bookings to Geraldine at 0861732711. Click here for further information.
IRELAND U-20: Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); David Panter (Corinthians/Connacht), Tom Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster), Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) (capt); Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster), George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcon/Exiles), Christopher Taylor (Malone/Ulster), Gavin Thornbury (UCD/Leinster), John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster).
Replacements: John Andrew (Ballymena/Ulster), Ryan Furniss (Worcester Warriors/Exiles), Adam Boland (Lansdowne/Leinster), Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), John Creighton (Malone/Ulster), Mark Roche (Lansdowne/Connacht), Darragh Leader (Galwegians/Connacht).
FRANCE U-20: Nicolas Metge (SC Albi); Florian Vialelle (Castres Olympique), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Thibaut Regard (Lyon OU), Stephen Parez (Racing Metro 92); Vincent Mallet (Stade Francais), Yohan Domenech (RC Narbonne); Cyril Baille (Toulouse), Romain Ruffenach (Biarritz Olympique), Khatchik Vartanov (Racing Metro 92), Jean-Baptiste Singer (Clermont Auvergne), Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont Auvergne) (capt), Jean-Blaise Lespinasse (US Montauban), Francois Cros (Toulouse), Mathieu Babillot (Castres Olympique).
Replacements: Oleg Ishchenko (Montpellier HRC), Alexis Valette (Racing Metro 92), Pascal Cotet (USA Perpignan), Leo Bastien (SU Agen), Baptiste Serin (USB-CABBG), Enzo Selponi (Montpellier HRC), Etienne Dussartre (Racing Metro 92), Yacouba Camara (RC Massy Essone).
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Ashley Rowden (both England)
Television Match Official: Trevor Fisher (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland U-20s to win: 4/11; Draw: 18/1; France U-20s to win: 2/1
Pre-Match Quotes – Mike Ruddock (Ireland U-20s): “We have a tough battle on our hands against a strong French team.
“They have recalled to their squad a number of players with Heineken Cup experience. We need to reproduce our valiant effort we showed against England.”
Gerald Bastide (France U-20s): “Now we can’t win the tournament so we have to look at our second objective, to finish as high as possible but also give some game-time to some players who we haven’t seen as much of.
“We want to work on the team as a collective and prepare for the future objective of the World Championship.
“Against Ireland we want to repeat the good things we did both in attack and defence in the first three games, but too sporadically. We need to be more consistent and if we can do that, we won’t be far off.”
Match Facts –
– The Ireland Under-20s have won their last four home games, all played in Athlone
– The Ireland Under-20s’ last six encounters in the Six Nations have all been won by the home side on the day
– The France Under-20s have lost three of their last four games at this level
– France have lost their last two games in the Under-20 Six Nations but have never lost three in-a-row in the competition
– Ireland have won their last two encounters against the French Under-20s, beating them 13-12 in Grenoble in last year’s Six Nations and claiming an 18-7 5th-6th place play-off victory at the IRB Junior World Championship in Cape Town
– The France Under-20s have visited Dubarry Park three times before, winning 38-13 on their most recent visit in 2011
– Centre Tom Daly is Ireland’s top points scorer from the opening three rounds of the 2013 Six Nations, scoring a try, three conversions and four penalties for a 23-point haul
Recent Meetings –
2010: RBS U-20 6 Nations: France U-20s 20 Ireland U-20s 15, Stade de la Chevaliere, Mazamet; IRB Junior World Championship Pool B: Ireland U-20s 22 France U-20s 25, Estadio El Coloso del Parque, Rosario
2011: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 13 France U-20s 38, Dubarry Park