Mike Ruddock’s reign as Ireland Under-20 head coach will officially begin in Parma tonight, as Niall Annett and his side face Italy first up in the RBS U-20 6 Nations Championship.
2011 RBS UNDER-20 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 4
ITALY U-20s v IRELAND U-20s, Stadio XXV Aprile, Parma, 7pm local time/6pm Irish time (live RTE website)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20 squad, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be defending their Six Nations title from last and five players from the 2010 Championship squad have been named in the team to face Italy.
Winger Andrew Conway makes a return to the side from last season, along with Jordi Murphy and Niall Annett, who will captain the side. David Doyle and Brendan Macken are listed among the replacements.
Two more players who played for Ireland at last year’s IRB Junior World Championship – Andrew Boyle and Martin Moore – have made the starting line-up.
Speaking ahead of the game, new head coach Mike Ruddock said: “After winning the Championship last season, the stakes are set high for us this year. But this is a new season, a new squad and a clean slate.
“Our focus for now is on kicking off the Championship with a strong performance and while it is great to have a core of experienced players, we will be looking for the entire squad to show what they can do.
“We have prepared well and have gelled as a team. The skill level, attitude and performances of the players and of the team as a whole have been very impressive. We hope to reproduce this for the tournament.”
The Ireland Under-20s has been supported by sponsors PricewaterhouseCoopers over the last five seasons, during which time they secured a Grand Slam in 2007 and won the Championship last year.
Commenting on their support of the Under-20s, Ronan Murphy, Senior Partner, PwC, said: “We are delighted to support Irish rugby and the Under-20 squad in particular.
“Success on the pitch is determined by having the right team with the right talent playing to win. Likewise, at PwC, by having the best people working together we are committed to helping our clients tackle today’s tough business challenges.
“We wish the Under-20 squad and management success in their forthcoming RBS U-20 6 Nations Championship.”
Meanwhile, the Italian team to face the reigning champions includes nine players from the national Academy. Tighthead prop Piermaria Leso, who captains the side, is one such player.
There are four players selected from Magners League club Benetton Treviso, and the vast bulk of the squad play their rugby in Italy’s national competitions.
Loosehead prop Nicola Quaglio was Italy’s lone try scorer when the sides met at Donnybrook in October. Sam Coghlan Murray scored two of Ireland’s tries in a 29-10 win.
Italy head coach Andrea Cavinato, who previously coached Parma, said: “We have worked to be competitive and we know how to deal with Ireland. It is important to be as effective as possible in defence and stop their backs from getting going.”
ITALY U-20: Augusto Cosulich (Benetton Treviso); Alex Morsellino (Petrarca Padova), Giovanni Alberghini (HBS GranDucato Parma), Tommaso Castello (Banco di San Giorgio Cus Genova), Marco Gennari (BancaMonteParma Crociati); Luca Morisi (Rugby Grande Milano), Guglielmo Palazzani (Cammi Calvisano); Nicola Quaglio (Femi-CZ Rovigo), Amar Kudin (Benetton Treviso), Piermaria Leso (Petrarca Padova) (capt), Marco Fuser (Benetton Treviso), Alfio Mammana (Amatori Catania), Edoardo Ghiraldini (Petrarca Padova), Jacopo Bocchi (Benetton Treviso), Edoardo Ruffolo (BancaMonteParma Crociati).
Replacements: Giovanni Maistri (Cammi Calvisano), Riccardo Cagna (MPS Viadana), Andrea Balsemin (HBS GranDucato Parma), Ruben Riccioli (Mantovani Lazio), Vittorio Callori di Vignale (Estra I Cavalieri Prato), Francesco Menon (Consiel Firenze 1931), Timi Enodeh (BancaMonteParma Crociati).
IRELAND U-20: Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster); Andrew Conway (Blackrock/Leinster), Alex Kelly (UCD/Leinster), Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster),Andrew Boyle (UCD/Leinster); Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Blane McIlroy (Ballymena/Ulster); James Tracy (UCD/Leinster), Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) (capt), Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster), Michael Kearney (Clontarf/Leinster), Daniel Qualter (Buccaneers/Connacht), Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Aaron Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht), Eoin McKeon (Galwegians/Connacht).
Replacements: David Doyle (UCD/Leinster), Conor Carey (Ballymena/Ulster), Finlay Bealham (Exile), Iain Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster),Peter du Toit (UCD/Leinster), Cathal Marsh (Dublin University/Leinster), Brendan Macken (Blackrock/Leinster).
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Italy U-20s to win: 9/2; Draw: 25/1; Ireland U-20s to win: 1/7
Pre-Match Quotes: Niall Annett (Ireland Under-20s) – “I’m really honoured to be captain. It was great for Mike to select me, and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.
“I was captain for the last three games at the Junior World Championship, when Rhys (Ruddock) was selected for the seniors. I captained the Under-18s too, but the 20s is a huge step up from that. It’s a big honour for me.
“They’re a great bunch of lads this year, and hopefully we can do special things. We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ll do the homework on every team and we’ll work hard in training.
“But I’d be lying too if I told you we weren’t going out to win every game and win a Grand Slam. That’s the way Irish rugby has gone and that’s the way it should be. It’s exciting times and we’ve just got to go out there and do the job.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2009: RBS U-20 6 Nations: Italy U-20s 23 Ireland U-20s 29, Beltrametti Stadium, Piacenza