Back-to-back home victories at the start of their Six Nations campaign has put the Ireland Under-20s in an excellent position heading into Round 3 of the Championship, but forwards coach Colm Tucker knows there is still a lot of room for growth from the class of 2020.
Noel McNamara‘s side impressed in wins over Scotland and Wales at Irish Independent Park but their Championship credentials will be placed firmly under the microscope at Franklin’s Gardens this Friday night as they take on undefeated England (kick-off 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports).
Going away to Northampton for a top-of-the-table clash represents the biggest challenge of the campaign for Ireland and while they are under no illusions of the size of the task ahead of them, Tucker says the squad are in a good place, both physically and mentally, heading into match week.
“We had a very good two-day camp last week in Cork, including a hit-out against the senior team which was massively beneficial,” he told Irish Rugby TV.
“It’s a hugely challenging week, a very different one. We’ve had the home comforts of Cork and a brilliant crowd but going across to Franklin’s Gardens poses a different challenge and England, conversely, have had two away games to start so they’ll have the benefit of the home crowd.
“It’s a different challenge but we’ll have to get our energy off each other, we’ll have to mind the ball a little bit better and play rugby in the right areas. Overall, we’re very much looking forward to it.”
With no new injury concerns ahead of the trip to England, and a number of players back to full fitness including Ulster duo Hayden Hyde and Ethan McIlroy, McNamara and his coaching staff have selection decisions to mull over before Wednesday’s team announcement.
“A lot of selection headaches this week which is a brilliant place to be,” Tucker added. “Hayden Hyde and Ethan McIlroy are coming back and Max O’Reilly and Niall Comerford are back training, so it puts us in a great place and we’re banking on the quality of our training leading into Friday night.
“Confidence is in a good place. We’ve had two good performances but we’ve a lot of areas we still need to get better in. There is a lot of room for growth for us and we as coaches are aware of that and the squad are aware of that. We’ve plenty to keep us grounded and plenty to keep us awake at night to keep working hard at.”