It is not just the Ireland senior men’s team with bigger fish to fry following their Grand Slam success at the weekend, Richie Murphy’s Under-20s are already eyeing up a run at this summer’s World Championships in South Africa according to back-row star Brian Gleeson.
Gleeson, who only turned 19 on February 5 and has another year of eligibility at Under-20 level, was Ireland’s man of the match for the second time in five matches after his two tries contributed to a 36-24 victory over England at Musgrave Park on Sunday night that secured back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams for the underage side.
It was a powerhouse performance from the giant former Tipperary underage hurler and footballer form Loughmore near Thurles and one that helps to explain why he had been training with the Munster senior squad in recent weeks despite still being a member of the province’s National Training Squad.
Gleeson is surely destined for the full Munster academy after a blistering Six Nations campaign in the same back row as provincial colleague Ruadhan Quinn, currently the Reds’ youngest senior cap of the professional era, just not before the Ireland Under-20s have embarked on the World Rugby U20 Championship in Cape Town between June 24 and July 14.
Speaking at Musgrave Park on Sunday night, having collected his Six Nations winners’ medal, the No.8 said he sees that campaign as a further opportunity for Murphy’s team to continue their improvement.
“Every single game we’re improving. We’re getting more used to playing together in our systems and we’re not done yet,” Gleeson said. “We said at the start of this, obviously the Grand Slam is what we wanted to do but we still have the World Cup coming and we’re going to look towards that now and that’s where we want to get to – World Cup champions.
“We’re growing with every game… we’re big bodies, we can all play but when we have Fintan (Gunne, scrum-half) and Sam (Prendergast, fly-half) leading us around it makes our jobs easier and we saw the backs there, the way they were able to fling the ball and score tries, so it makes our job easier.
Gleeson, whose rugby journey began with Thurles Rugby Club and at Rockwell College under current Munster defence coach Denis Leamy, saw a particular benefit from the U20s two training sessions with the senior Ireland squad in the Six Nations’ fallow weeks, just as he has training with Graham Rowntree’s provincial squad, with whom he would welcome further opportunity to stake a claim for matchday involvement down the line.
“Yeah, look, we’ll take it as it comes. Hopefully I can put my name out there and get training more with them and put my name forward but the back rowers in Munster at the moment are going very well so if I can get any bit of game time I’ll be happy.
“I’ve trained a good bit with (Munster) recently and even training with them makes you get better and calmer and stuff. And when we trained with the Irish seniors you’re more used to being with them and the pace of the game. Train with them and you improve so, so much and your fitness comes on a lot.”
Watching Andy Farrell’s men close out their own Grand Slam the night before their decider against England U20s was also a boost, Gleeson said.
“Yeah it was great. We were all watching it in the hotel and we were just saying, like, does it put pressure on us? No, it doesn’t. They’re the best team in the world and we want to be the best Under-20s team in the world.”