Ahead of Ireland’s opening game in the World Rugby U20 Championship against Italy tomorrow at the AIA Arena in Kutaisi, Jack Kelly revealed that being released from his original role of team captain has taken some pressure off his shoulders.
The Leinster back had led the side out for a Six Nations opener against Scotland, before a shoulder injury ruled him out of meetings with the Italians and France.
Lansdowne’s Paul Boyle will take on the position for the Championships in Georgia.
“It’s easier for myself, having not played in a good few months, to concentrate on trying to play well and not having to worry about the team as a whole. It’s a bit of pressure off. We always talked about the captaincy just being the person who spoke to the ref,” Kelly remarked. “Paul [Boyle] was one of the leaders in the team anyway. The only real difference is the role on the pitch, but it is nice to just concentrate on my own game and just get back at it.”
After returning to the starting line-up for a March 11 defeat to Wales, Kelly once again missed out on an encounter with eventual Grand Slam champions England. While he may be short of competitive match fitness, he is adamant that his provincial medical team would not have allowed him to travel if his shoulder problems hadn’t cleared up.
“It’s the only thing I have been concentrating on is getting my shoulder right. It looked pretty touch and go for a while, but now it looks like I will be able to play. I’d always be fighting against the support staff back in Leinster, but they are happy for me to go.
“Initially they came to me and said ‘if you do not turn a corner with your rehab it might not happen.’ They would not let me go if they weren’t completely confident that I would be able to play. Thankfully with the rehab, with the work I was doing, it came around.”
The game against Italy will be the first time the squad have played under new head coach Peter Malone - who replaced Nigel Carolan at the end of the Six Nations. However, with former U19 supremo Kieran Campbell joining Malone in the new set-up, he believes they can build on the good work of Carolan.
“Nigel was brilliant. We have Kieran [Campbell] now, who is also good. We had him at U19s, so it is not as if he is completely new. A lot of us have played under him before. We had a meeting with him a while back, and he is open to any suggestions that we have as well.
“I suppose we are just going to work it out ourselves with his direction, and any input we can give. Anything we have learnt from Nigel already, we are going to use,” Kelly added.
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