The Ireland U20 team open their campaign against host nation South Africa at Danie Craven Stadium where Ruddock has named hooker Niall Scannell as captain in place of Paddy Jackson, who was pulled out of the squad by Ulster last week.
However the Ireland coach expects his side to show off their undoubted ability and will use the experience of their first ever U20 win on French soil in February to good effect.
“A very tough pool, probably the most physical of the lot when you look at what Italy bring, they’re going to be very, very physical, we played them in the Six Nations and they can’t be underestimated at all,” said Ruddock.”
“England were [Six Nations] champions of course and South Africa as you’ve heard wants to win.
“We’re a confident bunch, we went to places like France and won this year. In the Six Nations we won four out of five matches, it’s a good team that believes they can go in there and get stuck into South Africa, we know the physicality is going to be up there.”
Ruddock named his side yesterday and gave Munster’s JJ Hanrahan the number 10 jersey. While acknowledging the loss of Jackson, who had been captain, and injured winger Shane Layden would be felt, he believed it was a great chance for other players to shine.
“We have to be at our best to beat South Africa. Shane Layden scored quite a few tries for us in the Six Nations and losing your captain[Jackson] is never easy but it’s quite natural for us to promote our vice-captain Niall Scannell.
“It gives opportunities for other lads to push on and perform and that will be good for us.”
IRELAND U20 TEAM: P Nelson (Dungannon/Ulster); B Daly (UCD/Leinster), F Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster), C Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), S Coghlan Murray (UCD/Leinster); JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), K Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht); D Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster), N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster); T Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster), I Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster); J Coghlan (UCD/Leinster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), C Gilsenan (UCD/Mullingar/Leinster).
Replacements: J Rael (Garryowen/Munster), P Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster), J Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster), A O’Connor (UCD/Leinster), A Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster), J Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht), M Sherlock (Clontarf/Leinster).