Elwood rallies charges for French test as confident Irish hunt second win

IRELAND Under-20 coach Eric Elwood and his team are on a high after coming back from the brink to record a smash-and-grab 17-15 win over Wales last weekend.

Elwood has made two changes in personnel and a further two positional switches for the game with France in Dubarry Park, Athlone tonight (7.30pm).

Cian Healy comes in at loose-head prop in place of David Millard and Tommy O’Donnell moves up from the replacements to open-side flanker. Captain David Pollock moves to No 8 in place of hamstring injury victim Sean O’Brien and Kevin Sheahan comes into the replacements to fill O’Donnell’s position.

Commenting on the game, Elwood said: “Last week’s performance was the type of display I wanted from the team. They showed guts and character”.

Referring to the fact that Ireland fell 15 points behind inside the opening 30 minutes — and it could have been more after a bizarre decision not to award Wales another try — he noted: “To come back in the manner we did was tremendous. We showed some great skills in the process by taking the game to Wales after the pressure they put on us from the start. But this game is a different challenge, France will be just as strong, if not stronger, as Wales.

“But playing at home is a big plus for us and we are looking forward to the atmosphere at a packed Dubarry Park. Hopefully, the local fans can make it as intimidating as possible and that we can give them a performance to shout about, like last week.

“While we have lost Sean O’Brien to injury, the back row and the entire pack last week played exceptionally well. A lot of people stood up and took notice of our back line. Felix (Jones) stood out after coming in as a late replacement for Luke Fitzgerald. That was particularly encouraging,” he added.

Jones, from Seapoint and Leinster, had a hard act to follow the highly-ranked Fitzgerald, who won a full cap against the Pacific Islands in November. Fitzgerald is tipped for a long senior international career, but Jones seized his chance brilliantly, scoring two superb tries after coming in to replace the injured full back.

IRELAND U-20: F. Jones (Leinster), S. Monahan (Leinster), D. Cave (Ulster), A. Wynne (Connacht), K. Earls (Munster), I. Keatley (Leinster), P. O’Donoghue (Leinster), C. Healy (Leinster), R. Sweeney (Leinster), J. Hagan (Leinster), C. McInerney (Leinster), A. Browne (Connacht), T. Anderson (Ulster), D. Pollock (captain, Ulster), T. O’Donnell (Munster).

Replacements: G. Slattery (Munster), R. Murphy (Leinster), N. Keogh (Munster), K. Sheahan (Leinster), D. Drake (Ulster), N. O’Connor (Ulster), K Tonetti (Leinster).

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