Hernan: Ireland U20s looking forward to locking horns with Farrell's squad at CIT

Two wins from two and heading to England with gathering momentum, it's not just Andy Farrell's senior team with the wind at their backs in this Six Nations.

Ireland U20s Mark Hernan and Luis Faria celebrate after beating Wales. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Ireland U20s Mark Hernan and Luis Faria celebrate after beating Wales. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

If anything, with the maximum 10 points from bonus-point wins over Scotland and Wales in the first two rounds, it is Ireland's Under-20s who go into tomorrow's joint open training session with Farrell's squad in Cork as the form horses.

U20s flanker Mark Hernan is certainly relishing the opportunity to lock horns with the seniors at Cork Institute of Technology as Noel McNamara's squad, defending Six Nations champions, gear up for their showdown with the unbeaten English at Franklin's Gardens in Northampton in nine days.

Last season's Leinster Seniors Schools Cup-winning captain with St Michael's has stepped up to Under-20 international rugby with aplomb, scoring two tries at Musgrave Park last Friday night in the 36-22 victory over Wales but the Leinster A back-rower is keen to measure himself against Ireland's Test stars.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how a few of those lads tick and what we can learn from them," Hernan, 19, said. "Because obviously they're one of the best teams in the world and best players in the world.

"It will be good to see what they're like in day to day training and try to pick up habits that they lay down. Obviously, that is at the back of your head, that you're looking to try to get there but obviously, it could be a long way away so you're just trying to pick up from the best in the world, really."

Hernan has heard all the tales about previous training sessions with the Ireland men and the often spiky edge to proceedings in contact. Yet though he is prepared for anything, the focus will be on absorbing as much information from Farrell's players as possible.

"I've heard a few stories over the last few years from lads I know. But yeah, I think we're just trying to take as much out of it as we can and it might be a cohesive wave if one lad gets in a bit of a scuffle, that we're all in.

"We're not really thinking about that stuff, it's just what we can take out of it. Obviously, Andy Farrell is an incredible coach so it's just learning from him and the players as well."

There is little doubt the U20s are a tight knit group and have been building team spirit since their pre-Six Nations training camp in east Cork.

"After the Fota Island camp, just before the Scottish game, there was a huge sense of collectiveness and cohesion building," Hernan said. "It's good.

"The more you play, the more you understand what different players are like, what they like playing and it's just being able to adapt to different circumstances as well. Playing with lads because you mightn't have the same centre partnerships, same back-row partnerships, so obviously you have to adapt to things.

"It does help getting to know lads off the pitch as well from different backgrounds and different provinces and stuff. Looking forward to the England game in two weeks."

Despite the immediate focus on a challenging training camp, Hernan admitted it is difficult to ignore the pending crunch match against England.

"Now that we have a two-week block, we can really go to town on our preparation for the England match. We won't be hugely focused on them, there will be a huge emphasis on our game and how we want to play and our preparation.

"But it's always in the back of your head that that's one of the biggest games that you get to play in under-age. That's always going to be a big one but as I said, we're just looking at ourselves and over the next two weeks, get a good two weeks' preparation and just go hit the ground running."

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