Ireland in historic bid to make Under-20 World Cup final

Ireland are bidding to make history by reaching the Junior Rugby World Championship final
Ireland are bidding to make history by reaching the Junior Rugby World Championship final

As expected, Ireland have reinstated their front line players for this afternoon’s U20 World Cup semi-final against Argentina in Manchester.

Ireland head coach Nigel Carolan had made 13 changes to the team which comfortably defeated Georgia in the final pool game.

The young greens had already defeated reigning World champions, New Zealand and Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales in Pool A which put them in pole position to reach the semi-finals for only a second time.

Ireland are now bidding to make the final for the first time - although when the tournament was an U21 age-group, the Irish reached the final in 2004.

Front-rowers Andrew Porter, Adam McBurney and Ben Betts all return to the starting XV, as does captain James Ryan, who has recovered from the thigh injury that kept him out of the Georgia match.

He will be joined in the second row by Sean O’Connor.

The back-row is comprised of Max Deegan at number eight and flankers David Aspil and Greg Jones. Jones will be making his fourth start of the Championship.

Stephen Kerins will wear the number 9 jersey and will be partnered at half-back by Queen’s Johnny McPhillips, who scored 18 points in last week’s Georgian win.

Conor O’Brien and Shane Daly make up the centre partnership and the back three is comprised of Jacob Stockdale at full-back and Matthew Byrne and Hugo Keenan on the wings.

Carolan said; “The players have done really well to get themselves into a World Championship Semi-Final.

“There’s a great belief amongst this group and they’ve shown what they can do as a team over the course of the last number of games.

“Argentina are going to present another big test for us.

“They have a lot of physicality up front as well as pace out wide so we are going to need to be at the top of our game tomorrow.”

The game will be screened on Sky Sports and TG4 with a 5.30pm kick-off.

England will meet South Africa in the other semi-final, with New Zealand failing to reach the main knockout stages.

Meanwhile, Ireland Men’s Sevens team suffered two five-point defeats to highly-experienced Spain and Canada, as their bid to qualify for the Olympics came to an end on day two of the World Rugby Sevens Repechage tournament in Monaco.

Ireland, who topped their pool yesterday with three wins, were knocked out of contention for Rio by a 12-7 loss to Spain in the Cup quarter-finals this morning.

Anthony Eddy’s side took the lead in sunny conditions with a converted try from captain Tom Daly, but the more experienced Spanish outfit triumphed thanks to scores from Matias Tudela Perret and Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez.

Powerfully-built Canada also proved too strong in the 5th place semi-final, running in four tries to Ireland’s three. Shane Layden, Mick McGrath and Daly all touched down in the 24-19 reversal.

This was a big step up for Ireland who have only been playing Sevens tournaments together since last summer when they won Rugby Europe Divisions B and C and finished third in the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage.

They came to Monaco after winning the Rugby Europe Men’s Sevens Trophy leg in Malmo last week, and could secure promotion to the European Sevens Grand Prix Series for 2017 via the second leg of the Trophy in Prague (July 2-3).

The 12-man squad that competed in this weekend’s Global Olympic Repechage has an average age of 23 - with nine players aged between 21 and 23 - and judging by their displays in Monaco, new additions Mick McGrath and Josh Rowland have also fitted right in.

There was plenty for Anthony Eddy, the IRFU Director of Sevens Rugby, and fellow coach Stan McDowell to build on as Ireland continue their rise through the European Sevens ranks and chase qualification for the World Series.