Ireland and Wales both made winning starts to their Under-20 Six Nations campaigns last weekend and with the sides also due to meet in this summer’s IRB Junior World Championship, there will be no quarter asked or given in Athlone tonight.
2014 RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 7
IRELAND UNDER-20s (1st) v WALES UNDER-20s (2nd), Dubarry Park, 7.35pm (live RTÉ Two/RTÉ website (island of Ireland only))
Team News: Head coach Mike Ruddock has made one change to the Ireland Under-20 team – sponsored by PwC – to face Wales at Dubarry Park on Friday night.
Cian Kelleher comes in on the right wing in place of Adam Byrne while Ireland’s man-of-the-match against Scotland, number 8 Jack O’Donoghue, has recovered from the knock he took late in the opening fixture to take his place in the back row.
O’Donoghue, who touched down twice against the Scots, will reprise his back row partnership with fellow try scorer Peadar Timmins and team captain Dan Leavy.
Vice-captain Ross Byrne kicked 14 points in the opening game and retains the number 10 jersey. He will again be partnered at half-back by the impressive Nick McCarthy.
There are three further changes on the replacements bench with Sean McNulty replacing Jacob Walshe, Denis Coulson replacing Shane Delahunt and Frankie Taggart taking over from Rory Moloney.
Tickets for the second match of the Electric Ireland home series in Athlone can be purchased in advance at either Buccaneers RFC or the Bounty.
Tickets can also be bought at the turnstiles on match night, but do come along early especially as pyrotechnics prior to kick-off will add to the fantastic atmosphere.
Stand seats generally sell out in advance of each match. Ticket prices are as follows: Stand €;20; Terrace €;15; Children/OAP €;5; Family (two adults and two children to ground) €;30.
Group discounts are available to clubs/schools, etc., as are a limited number of pre-match tables where you can enjoy a three-course meal with wine and have a reserved seat in the stand for only €;40 per person.
Contact Buccaneers administrator Geraldine 0861732711 (during office hours) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Wales Under-20 head coach Byron Hayward has made five changes and two positional switches for his side’s trip to Athlone.
The Welsh youngsters got their U-20 Six Nations bid off to a good start with a 26-9 win over Italy at Eirias last weekend – but Hayward insists his side will have to step up a gear to beat the Irish.
In the back-line, Ashton Hewitt and Garyn Smith come in for Dafydd Howells and Harri Evans – with captain Steffan Hughes switching from inside to outside centre.
Up front, Nicky Smith and Ethan Lewis start in the front row in place of Callum Lewis and Elliot Dee.
Scott Andrews gets the nod in the second row, while Ben Roach returns to his usual back row positon, taking up the number 8 berth with James Benjamin moving to the openside spot.
IRELAND U-20: David Busby (Queen’s University/Ulster); Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Peter Robb (Old Belvedere/Leinster), 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), Sean O’Brien (Galwegians/Connacht), Ross Molony (UCD/Leinster), Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster), Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) (capt), Jack O’Donoghue (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: Sean McNulty (UCD/Munster), Denis Coulson (Lansdowne/Leinster), Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Joe Joyce (Bristol/Exiles), Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jack Cullen (Bruff/Munster), Conor McKeon (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dan Goggin (Young Munster/Munster).
WALES U-20: Afon Bagshaw (RGC); Ashton Hewitt (Dragons), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets) (capt), Garyn Smith (Blues), Joshua Adams (Scarlets); Ethan Davies (Dragons), Tom Williams (Blues); Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Ethan Lewis (Blues), Nicky Thomas (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Dragons), James Sheekey (Blues), Will Boyde (Carmarthen), James Benjamin (Dragons), Ben Roach (Blues).
Replacements: Scott Otten (Ospreys), Luke Garrett (Dragons), Callum Lewis (Blues), Rory Thornton (Ospreys), Ollie Griffiths (Dragons), Connor Lloyd (Scarlets), Luke Price (Ospreys), Tyler Morgan (Dragons).
Referee: Tom Foley (England)
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee, Andy Watson (both England)
Television Match Official: David Sainsbury (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland U-20s to win: 4/11; Draw: 18/1; Wales U-20s to win: 21/10
Pre-Match Quotes – Mike Ruddock (Ireland U-20s): “We got off to a good start in difficult conditions against the Scots but the Welsh will provide a much sterner test.
“An (almost) unchanged side gives us some consistency and will allow combinations to develop across the field.
“We have some fresh faces on the bench which will be hoping to make an impact on the game at some stage.”
Byron Hayward (Wales U-20s): “Harri Evans, Elliot Dee and Scott Matthews have been ruled out of this game through injury, however, we said we would give players exposure at this level in order to prepare for the Junior World Championship in June and we will continue to do that.
“We will need to step up a gear defensively against Ireland as they will pose a different challenge to Italy, plus they scored 30 points against Scotland.
“I’m confident we can rise to that challenge as we’ve worked hard on that area of our game under Richard Hodges.
“Along with a solid defence, our discipline needs to be good and we need to attack in the right areas and at the right times.”
Pre-Match Links –
Match Facts –
– The Ireland Under-20s’ only defeat in their last five Six Nations matches came at the hands of Scotland in round 3 last season
– Ireland have won their last six home matches, all played in Athlone, since England beat them there in March 2011
– The Wales Under-20s (26-9 winners at home to Italy in round 1) have lost just one of their last six matches in the tournament: 28-15 to England in round 5 last season
– Wales have won their last three away games, their best such run in the history of the U-20 Six Nations
– The two sides have met on nine previous occasions in all competitions with honours even at four wins apiece plus a draw
– The Wales Under-20s’ only previous win on Irish soil came in Athlone in 2008
– Ireland out-half Ross Byrne is the top points scorer in the 2014 tournament so far with 14 points (four conversions and two penalties), while number 8 Jack O’Donoghue is the top try scorer following his brace in the opening round
Recent Meetings –
2012: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 11 Wales U-20s 6, Dubarry Park
2013: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Wales U-20s 17 Ireland U-20s 15, Parc Eirias, Colwyn Bay