Oliver’s army of Munster fledglings show fruits of hard work

Munster U20s head coach Greig Oliver will point to the Junior World Cup success of JJ Hanrahan, James Rael and Niall Scannell this summer to motivate his current crop as they go into inter-provincial action next week.

Fly-half Hanrahan was the star of the show in South Africa as Ireland’s U20s, captained by hooker Scannell, beat the hosts and eventual champions in their opening game, narrowly missed out on the semi-finals and then knocked off England and France to seal fifth place in the tournament, Ireland’s highest ever finish.

Hanrahan has since joined the Munster squad on a development contract while hookers Rael and Scannell are part of the Munster academy, their progress a reminder to the province’s U18s, 19s and 20s of the potential rewards on offer.

Elite Player Development Officer Oliver, a former Scotland scrum-half, witnessed great strides across the board this summer during a five-week summer camp at Rockwell College, also attended by the first-team squad members and others higher up the playing ladder.

“Absolutely. Those boys were there and the academy players were there on certain days as well and they could see the progression,” Oliver said.

“The U18 youths could see where they were going next year and see the way the academy worked and we also had some of the pros down as well helping out. So it showed them the pathway if they progress.

“They came together from Tuesday morning until Friday afternoon for five weeks, staying in Rockwell College. It was a huge benefit for them. From where we’ve been in the past, training twice a week, it’s a massive change and not only will it help the age-group squads it will help the academy and Munster Rugby as a whole. Having all four squads there from the U18 youths team, U18 schools, U19s and U20s all together has been a huge step forward for them.”

Oliver saw the effects of the Rockwell camp rub off immediately as his U20s enjoyed pre-season success with wins over Connacht and Italy before a narrow defeat to a Sale Sharks academy side in Manchester on Monday, , Munster going down 16-13 to an injury-time penalty.

“We were just looking at how the boys had progressed from the talent camp we had up in Rockwell. That’s been a major step forward in how we push into the interprovincials this year compared with what’s happened in the past, just training twice a week.

“Getting the boys to know each other pretty well in that environment it was fantastic as was having all the coaches on hand and the pro players to help out in that kind of structure. So it’s all going well at the moment and hopefully we’ll reap the benefits in a few years. They work hard for each other and that’s been evident in the first two games, so we’ll see how it goes into the interpros. If they play well, the individuals will come through and they’ll get into Irish squads.”

The Munster U20s complete their interprovincial warm-ups tomorrow night against Bruff’s first XV in Killballyowen (7.30pm) before opening the campaign the following Friday against Connacht at Musgrave Park.

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