ENGLAND U-20 coach Mark Mapletoft reckons last year’s shock defeat by Ireland provides all the motivation for his side ahead of tonight’s re-match at Kingsholm, Gloucester tonight (kick-off 7.45pm).
England top the U-20 Six Nations table following wins over Wales (41-14) and Italy (16-10) but suffered a setback against Ireland last season when they were beaten 19-18 thanks to a late long-range drop goal from Blackrock’s Ian Madigan in the final moments.
Mapletoft admits the side was stung by that defeat in Athlone. “Some of our players are still be hurting. But there’s not a great carry over and this is about this game, not the last one. If we perform to the targets we set we’ll be very competitive.”
Ireland, meanwhile, begin their Triple Crown campaign with the same side that went down to France a fortnight ago. The starting XV includes exciting Leinster Academy pair, Andrew Conway and Brendan Macken, the former making his Magners League debut last weekend and, into the bargain, setting up Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton with the try-scoring pass.
While the Ireland U-20 backline is replete with plenty of talent, head coach Allen Clarke hopes his forwards can dominate the physically abrasive England pack. The back-row of Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Patrick Butler will hope to earn enough go-forward ball, thus providing the platform to unleash a backline sprinkled with gold dust.
Problems may arise in the front row where the French proved stiff opposition for Byan Cagney, Niall Annett and Jack O’Connell. Clarke will hope his set-piece works smoothly and Ireland can conjure up enough attacks off first-phase ball.
England’s forward power has been one of the highlights of the opening rounds of the U20 Six Nations, their forwards coach Rob Hunter not afraid to highlight this. “We’ve been very controlled and accurate at the set piece and, while that’s a traditional English strength, it still takes a lot of hard work and application.
“We won eight penalties and three free kicks from the scrum or driving lineouts – four in the first 25 minutes – which creates a decent platform. There is still room for improvement, making better decisions, but when we didn’t get the ball it was largely due to our own errors which is easy to fix.”
IRELAND: A Conway (Blackrock Coll); D Hudson (St. Mary’s), B Macken (Blackrock), N Spence (Ballynahinch), S Zebo (Cork Con); J McKinney (Queen’s Univ), J Cooney (UCD); B Cagney (UCC), N Annett (Belfast Harl); J O’Connell (Lansdowne); D O’Callaghan (UCC), B Marshall (UCD); R Ruddock (UCD) (capt), D Ryan (Lansdowne), P Butler (Shannon).
Replacements: D Casey (Shannon), S Maguire (Old Belvedere), B Hayes (Cork Con), R O’Sullivan (Bective Rngs), M Heaney (Belfast Harl), B Kingston (Blackrock), E Griffin (Corinthians).
ENGLAND: J Wallace (Wasps); W Hurrell (Leicester Tigers), J Joseph (London Irish), T Casson (Saracens), J May (Gloucester); F Burns (Gloucester), S Harrison (Leicester Tigeres); L Imiolek (Sale Sharks), J George (Saracens), S Knight (Gloucester); D Wright (Gloucester), C Matthews(Harlequins); J Wray (Saracens),J Rowan (capt) (Leeds Carnegie), A Gray (Newcastle Falcons).
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