Ireland must ignore high stakes of World U20 Championship final

Coach Nigel Carolan has urged his men to play the game and not the occasion when they take on England this evening (7pm) in the World Rugby U20 Championship at the AJ Bell Stadium in Greater Manchester.

Ireland must ignore high stakes of World U20 Championship final

Carolan’s men are on a roll since they defeated England in the Six Nations, having lost their opening two games, and that comeback win in Newcastle has seen them win seven in a row to take them to a first ever world final in this grade.

Monday’s 37-7 win over Argentina, having won all three pool games for the first time in the nine-year history of the competition, has left Ireland just 80 minutes from glory.

“Preparation has been really good. Lads have recovered well since the Argentina game. It has been pretty low-key. Our focus in our preparation is more about it being another game rather than try to prepare for the occasion.

“It’s very much about doing our homework, looking what worked well for us in the Argentina game and the little areas we can improve on. And then just little holes that we might be able to pick in the English defence. The lads are in good spirits.”

But Carolan admits that it is a big stage for these young players in their careers and while he doesn’t want them to get caught up in the occasion, he has urged his charges to enjoy every minute.

“It’s a milestone for all of us and for Irish rugby, to be in a world final. They know that they have come here, they have worked hard to be here having beaten Wales, New Zealand, Georgia and Argentina along the way. They deserve to be here and they are very confident.

“They are very tight, they work hard for us, they get on very well and hopefully that team spirit and character can see them through,” added Carolan.

And having lost a man to injury in each of the three pool wins over Wales (26-25), New Zealand (33-24) and Georgia (35-7), he is in a good position to name an unchanged side for the final.

England, who also had an indifferent Six Nations, have also been in top form in this competition and also won all three pool matches against Italy (48-10), Scotland (44-0) and Australia (17-13), before ousting South Africa 39-17 in the semi-finals on Monday. England skipper Harry Mallinder, who has made the breakthrough into the Northampton Saints side coached by his father Jim, insists they have long moved on from their Six Nations difficulties.

“We are not worrying too much about that Six Nations campaign. There are a few new boys coming into the group and we have started again. We are just focusing on these four really good games that we have had so far and hopefully we can build from there,” he said.

Indeed, England show eight changes from the side which went down 26-20 at Kingston Park in the Six Nations, having led 20-6 early in the second-half.

But the Irish side also shows six changes to the starting 15 from that game.

“We were behind a lot in that game against England and it was that high-risk, high-intensity rugby that enabled us to claw back that deficit,” added Carolan.

“Now we have won seven from seven playing that way. That’s hopefully the way we are going to start the game, a high-intensity game, shut England down and just impose ourselves on them.

“And hopefully that will be enough to get us across the line.”

IRELAND:

J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins); M Byrne (Terenure), S Daly (Cork Con), C O’Brien (Clontarf), H Keenan (UCD); J McPhillips (Queen’s University), S Kerins (Sligo); A Porter (UCD), A McBurney (Ballymena), B Betts (Young Munster); S O’Connor (Cashel), J Ryan (Lansdowne); G Jones (UCD), D Aspil (St Mary’s RFC), M Deegan (Lansdowne)

Replacements:

V O’Brien (Cork Con / Munster), J Bollard (Dublin University / Leinster), A Coyle (Naas/Leinster), E Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster), K Brown (Shannon / Munster), N Saunders (Epsom College/Exiles), B Connon (Newcastle Falcons), J O’Brien (UCD / Leinster).

ENGLAND:

M Malins; S Aspland-Robinson, J Marchant, J Williams, M Gallagher; H Mallinder, M Green; L Boyce, J Singleton, B Walker; S South, H Taylor; G Nott, W Evans, C Chick.

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