Tomorrow night will represent a significant step up in class for both Nigel Carolan’s and Tom Tierney’s sides, however, with imposing French teams providing the opposition at Dubarry Park and Ashbourne RFC, respectively.
Carolan has made two changes to the U20 side that ran in seven tries against the Azzurri. Stephen Fitzgerald replaces fellow Munster man Greg O’Shea out wide, though with Jack Owens moving wings to accommodate the alteration.
O’Shea picked up a head injury in Italy’s frozen northwest last week although the other switch is unforced and sees Ulster’s Sam Arnold take the place of Fergal Cleary, who drops down to the bench, in the centre.
France went to town on a Scotland U20s grade that has now gone 23 games with a win in their opener and if the quality of the opposition was suspect then there is no reason to doubt the abilities Fabien Pelous’ side bring with them to Athlone.
Six of last week’s starting XV had already tasted Top 14 action. More noteworthy is the fact Antoine Dupont, a scrum-half who has seen top-level game time with Castres, had to bide his time on the bench against Sean Lineen’s Scots.
Tom Tierney has made just the one change after his side’s 30-5 defeat of Italy in Florence. Katie Fitzhenry has been elevated from the replacements’ list to take Jackie Shiel’s place in the centre alongside Jenny Murphy.
“It was great to get the result last week and there was some good things we can take out of the Italy clash,” said Tierney. “This week sees another step up for the players in terms of opposition.”
The U20s game will be broadcast live on RTE2 tomorrow evening with coverage starting at 7pm. The Women’s encounter is to be streamed live on irishrugby.ie with former captain Fiona Coghlan as part of the commentary team.
IRELAND (U20s v France): B Dardis (UCD/Leinster); J Owens (QUB/Ulster), G Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), S Arnold (Ballynahinch/Ulster), S Fitzgerald (Shannon/Munster); R Byrne (UCD/Leinster), N McCarthy (UCD/Leinster); J Loughman (UCD/Leinster), Z McCall (QUB/Ulster), O Heffernan (Terenure/Leinster); D O’Connor (St Mary’s/Leinster), A Thompson (QUB/Ulster); J Murphy (UCD/Leinster), R Moloney (Buccaneers/Connacht), L Dow (QUB/Ulster).
IRELAND (WOMEN v France): N Briggs (UL Bohemian/Munster); H Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), J Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), K Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), A Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); N Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), L Muldoon (Skewen RFC); R O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), G Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo RFC), A Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster); S Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), ML Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster); P Fitzpatrick (St Marys/Leinster), C Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), H O’Brien (Highfield/ Munster).