Clarke keen for Ireland to bounce back

LACK of game time may be a concern for Ireland U19 coach Allen Clarke but the former Irish international still looks forward to a quality performance from his side in tonight’s clash with the Australian Schools U19s at Cork Institute of Technology’s ground (7.30pm).

“The squad has only been together since Saturday and we obviously would have liked more time to prepare for this game; that said we are confident that, following the national U19 interprovincial series and other screening methods, we have managed to produce a group of players who will be very competitive in this or any other fixture,” said Clarke yesterday.

Ireland U19 Schools already played the touring side but ended up on the losing side in Dublin last week. However, even though the Wallabies won that fixture 31-14 Clarke was happy with the performance of the team in general and particularly of numerous individuals whom he hopes will go on to become stars of the future.

In that sense, he will be looking for more of the same tonight and notwithstanding the fact that they lack game-time, Clarke said they had shown huge promise in the short few days in camp. “We know where most of the players are coming from; they have been on the radar for some time and others came through based on top quality form in the interprovincials.

“This is a very important age-group in the contest of Irish rugby going forward. For instance, we actually believe a few of them could well be involved with the Irish U-20’s later this season and we are really looking further down the line to the World Cup of 2015; that’s what these age-groups are all about in the long run.

In tonight’s encounter up front, it is a huge test but also an opportunity for Cork duo Simon Hanbidge (CBC) and David O’Mahony (PBC) to shine against a formidable Australian second row, while captain Jordi Murphy will lead the side from the number six position; he will be accompanied by two Connacht players from Colaiste Iognaid, Eoin McKeon and Aaron Conneely, of whom much is expected.

In what appears to be a well-balanced selection, Ireland will also look to quality backs in Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Luke Marshall and James McKinney to make the best of whatever possession the pack manages to produce.

Ireland will undoubtedly face a stern physical examination but Clarke is happy his side can rise to the challenge. He admitted that the team was not selected on the basis of physique – “we didn’t necessarily pick on that basis; we went for the players we believe have the right skills for their positions and players we believe will be highly motivated and ready for any challenge that is presented,” he said.

IRELAND U19: A Conway (Blackrock); T O’Halloran (Galwegians), B Macken (Blackrock), L Marshall (Ballymena), C Hircock (Bedford); J McKinney (Queen’s), P Du Toit (UCD); J Tracy (Newbridge College), D Doyle (UCD), M Moore (Lansdowne); S Hanbridge (CBC), D O’Mahony (PBC); J Murphy (Blackrock (captain), E McKeon (Coláiste Iognaid), A Connelly (Coláiste Iognaid).

Replacements: L Padian (Worcester), P Mullen (King’s Hospital), K O’Byrne (UCC), S Leckey (Glasgow Hawks), D Gallagher (Trinity College), M Dolan (Marist College), G Quinn McDonagh (Shannon), A Kelly (St Michael’s).


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