Irish walking wounded look to regroup

It might be a good omen but, for the first time since they arrived in France on Saturday, there was warm sunshine and pool weather yesterday for the Irish U20 squad as they recovered from the bruising encounter with the hosts the previous night.

James French after Ireland U20s lost to France. There are fears his tournament may be over due to injury. Pic: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Up to now the weather has been warm and sticky, interspersed with thunderstorms and rain coming down from the Pyrenees, but the squad could at least bask at their team hotel in Narbonne yesterday as they came to terms with the agonising 26-24 loss to the Six Nations champions.

First up for Noel McNamara and his management team was to assess the walking wounded ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash with South Africa.

Management were waiting on medical updates but it is feared the tournament could be over for loosehead prop James French and debutant winger Dan Hurley, while lock Matthew Dalton is doubtful with a shoulder injury.

French twisted a knee in the warm-up before Wednesday night’s game in Perpignan, while Hurley also suffered a knee injury in the opening half of a match.

Both players went for scans yesterday but it is feared they might be ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.

The Irish squad returned to their team hotel in Narbonne late on Wednesday night and have to regroup for Sunday.

South Africa were pushed all the way by Georgia before winning their opening game 33-27 and McNamara knows this will be another searching test for his squad.

The Irish U20s have enjoyed little good fortune on the injury front this season, during the Six Nations and in the build-up to this tournament, with several players ruled out, but McNamara is refusing to use that as an excuse.

“It’s part and parcel of it, unfortunately. It may present an opportunity for somebody else and that’s what it is about really,” said McNamara.

“We have a squad of 28 players out here already. There were players who didn’t get an opportunity against France. There’ll be opportunity to freshen things up.

“It’s really important we recover well. We are not going to get an awful lot of work done on the pitch over the course of the next few days.

“It’s about recovering well mentally as well as physically and ensuring that we learn from some of the things that we didn’t do well against France.”

A review of the French game was followed by a look at what South Africa will present, but with Georgia coming next week, it’s no secret that Ireland are in a pool populated by some of the biggest packs in the tournament.

“We need to learn from some of the things that we did against France,” said McNamara.

“It’s a tough group and teams are capable of taking points off each other so we might look back and say that was a super bonus point.

“It could be invaluable. But that’s scant consolation at this stage. But there are teams in the past that have lost their first game and still gone on to have very big tournaments.”



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