Two changes for crucial Rugby U20 Championship clash with Aussies

Ireland head coach Noel McNamara has made two enforced changes to his starting line-up for today’s crunch World Rugby U20 Championship Pool B clash with Australia in Santa Fe, Argentina (2.30pm Irish time).

After he sustained a finger injury in Tuesday’s 42-26 win over England, Ulster full-back Iwan Hughes has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. His place in the side is taken by Dublin University’s Rob Russell, while Ronan Watters deputises for Azur Allison in a reshuffled back row.

Whereas the Ulster No 8 will be back in contention once he completes the return-to-play protocols for his head injury, a facial issue has also brought Sean French’s tournament to an abrupt end. Though Aaron O’Sullivan and Max O’Reilly have been called up to the squad, they will not be involved on matchday two.

Having come through a high-scoring encounter with their arch rivals four days ago, McNamara is anticipating a much tighter affair with the junior Wallabies.

One of the things that strikes you [about Australia] is how good their defence is. How physical they are as a side. Very, very strong pack in particular.

"I think they’ve only conceded two tries over the course of their last three games. Between Fiji, New Zealand and Italy,” McNamara said.

“I think that gives an indication of the challenge that they’re going to pose. Their captain Fraser McReight is exceptionally strong over the ball. There’s going to be a few areas where we’re really going to have to be on top of our game if we want to come out on the right side of the result.”

Australia had 24 points to spare (36-12) in an accomplished triumph over Italy and with England expected to bounce back against the Azzurri, the race is on for top spot in the pool. While promising Munster scrum-half Craig Casey stood out in Ireland’s opening day victory, the form of his Australian counterpart has also provoked interest on these shores.

A native of the Cooley Peninsula in Louth, Michael McDonald moved to Perth with his parents and twin Andrew at the age of 13. Following an impressive debut in Australia’s successful U20 Oceania Championship campaign, the former Dundalk underage star has since established himself as a key figure in Jason Gilmore’s set-up.

IRELAND: R Russell; A Kernohan, L Turner, S Moore, J Wren; J Flannery, C Casey; J Wycherley, D Tierney-Martin, T Clarkson; C Ryan, R Baird; D McCann, R Watters, J Hodnett.

Replacements: J McKee, M Milne, C Ward, D Adamson, N Murray, C Booth, T Ahern, C Reilly, B Healy, C Foley.

AUSTRALIA: I Lucas; T Reilly, S Tupou, N Lolesio, M Nawaqanitawase; W Harrison, M McDonald; A Bell, L Lonergan, J Nasser; M Wood, T Hosea; H Wilson, F McReight, W Harris.

Replacements: J Cotton, B Abra, D Breen, R Van Nek, E Ha’angana, P Tafa, N Frost, C Tizzano, H Robertson, B Donaldson, S Tui, K Oates, J Walton.

More on this topic

Ronan O'Gara: Stopping Barrett is easier said than done

New Zealand secure 40-17 victory over Ireland

Mike Catt expected to join Ireland as attack coach

Israel Folau seeking €1.8m in donations to help legal case against Rugby Australia

More in this Section

Derby hoping for quick resolution after letting Chelsea speak to Lampard

Ireland’s Ryan Mullen a single second off time trial medal at European Games

Cricket legend Lara in Indian hospital after health scare

Wexford dealt suspension blow ahead of Leinster final


Hozier adds more believers to his church after Cork gig

Simply off the wall: Your go-to guide to shelving

Peter Dowdall shares his top 4 flower picks to add a splash of summer colour to your garden

Ask a counsellor: ‘Why does my husband hate that our daughter’s dating a man going through divorce?’

More From The Irish Examiner