Although there is a new management team and captain at the helm, there is a degree of familiarity about the Ireland Under-20 squad with six returning players starting against Italy tonight.
2014 UNDER-20 RBS 6 NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP: Friday, February 6
ITALY UNDER-20s v IRELAND UNDER-20s, Stadio Pozzi Lamarmora, Biella, 7pm local time/6pm Irish time (live Rai Sport 1)
Team News: The Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, to play their opening game of the U-20 RBS 6 Nations against Italy on Friday has been named.
New head coach Nigel Carolan has named an experienced side with six players from last year’s squad included in the starting line-up to play Italy.
Returning prop Oisin Heffernan will be joined by Jeremy Loughman and Zack McCall in the front row. David O’Connor and Alex Thompson link up in the second row, while Lorcan Dow combines with Josh Murphy and Rory Moloney in a strong looking back row combination.
The half-back pairing has a familiar look to it as Nick McCarthy, this year’s Ireland Under-20 captain, partners his UCD and Leinster colleague Ross Byrne.
Garry Ringrose, who also makes a return to the side from last year, will be joined by Fergal Cleary in the centre. Jack Owens and Greg O’Shea are named on the wings and Billy Dardis fills the full-back position.
Speaking ahead of his first competitive game in charge, Carolan said: “Any time you play an Italian side it is a fight, but it’s something players will need to adapt to. To play the opening game away from home is always a challenge, but we are focused and are looking forward to kicking off.”
Meanwhile, Italian boss Alessandro Troncon, the former Test scrum half, has selected a team that is back-boned by players who are part of the Italian Federation’s Academy.
Winger Luca Sperandio and scrum half Luca Petrozzi are the only players in the starting line-up who are not Academy-based. Sperandio’s Mogliano club-mate Paolo Buonfiglio captains the Italians from the front row.
Giacomo de Santis and Yannick Agbasse in the back-three, centre Matteo Gabbianelli, out-half Maicol Azzolini, tighthead Buonfiglio, lock Davide Zanetti and flanker Matteo Archetti all played in last year’s meeting at Dubarry Park which Ireland won 18-0.
ITALY U-20: Giacomo de Santis (Cammi Calvisano); Luca Sperandio (Marchiol Mogliano), Matteo Gabbianelli (Pesaro Rugby), Enrico Lucchin (Marchiol Mogliano), Yannick Agbasse (Asolo Rugby); Maicol Azzolini (Pesaro Rugby), Luca Petrozzi (Benetton Treviso); Dino Dallavalle (Rugby Viadana), Luhandre Luus (Accademia FIR), Paolo Buonfiglio (Marchiol Mogliano) (capt), Davide Zanetti (Cammi Calvisano), Davide Fragnito (Rugby Benevento), Matteo Archetti (Rugby Rovato), Dennis Bergamin (Valsugana Padova), Renato Giammarioli (Rugby Città di Frascati).
Replacements: Vincenzo Barbuscia (Messina Rugby Clan), Enjel Makelara (Marchiol Mogliano), Federico Pavesi (Cammi Calvisano), Ugo d’Onofrio (L’Aquila Rugby), Matteo Cornelli (Marchiol Mogliano), Riccardo Raffaele (L’Aquila Rugby), Matteo Minozzi (Valsugana Padova), Tommaso Beraldin (Valsugana Padova).
IRELAND U-20: Billy Dardis (UCD/Leinster); Greg O’Shea (Shannon/Munster), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Fergal Cleary (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jack Owens (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster); Ross Byrne (UCD/Leinster), Nick McCarthy (UCD/Leinster) (capt); Jeremy Loughman (UCD/Leinster), Zack McCall (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster), Oisin Heffernan (Terenure College/Leinster), David O’Connor (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Alex Thompson (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster), Josh Murphy (UCD/Leinster), Rory Moloney (Buccaneers/Connacht), Lorcan Dow (Queen’s University Belfast/Ulster).
Replacements: Adam McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), Michael Lagan (Ballymena/Ulster), Conan O’Donnell (Sligo/NUIG/Connacht), Cian Romaine (Buccaneers/Connacht), Nick Timoney (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Jack Cullen (Shannon/Munster), Joey Carbery (UCD/Leinster), Sam Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster).
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees, Jon Hardy (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Italy U-20s to win: 11/2; Draw: 30/1; Ireland U-20s to win: 1/12
Pre-Match Quotes – Nigel Carolan (Ireland U-20s): “We’re not going in necessarily focusing on results, and that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win. This team could beat all five of the other nations on any given day. The challenge through the Six Nations is to back it up every week.
“If we create the right environment where players are making decisions and taking ownership throughout the games then I’m not really worried about results.
“What we’re trying to do is create players who are adaptive so, whether we’re playing in bad conditions or on a fast track like Donnybrook, the players have to be able to adapt and play a style of rugby relative to the opposition and to the conditions.”
Pre-Match Links –
Match Facts –
– The Italy Under-20s won two games at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand last summer – against Argentina and Fiji – something they have not done since 2009
– Italy’s only victory in the Under-20 Six Nations in their last 15 encounters came against Scotland in Fontanafredda in round 3 last year
– The Ireland Under-20s beat Wales and Fiji at the Junior World Championship last summer, and in the 2014 Six Nations they won in Athlone against Scotland (34-7) and Italy (18-0)
– The two sides have met on nine previous occasions in all tournaments with Ireland being unbeaten, there being a 25-all draw in L’Aquila in the final round of 2013’s Six Nations tournament
– The Italy Under-20’s only previous match at Biella was a defeat to Wales in 2009
Recent Meetings –
2013: U-20 RBS 6 Nations: Italy U-20s 25 Ireland U-20s 25, Stadio del Marsi, Avezzano
2014: U-20 RBS 6 Nations: Ireland U-20s 18 Italy U-20s 0, Dubarry Park