With two man of the match awards to his credit in the RBS Six Nations U20 campaign, Jack O’Sullivan now makes the cut with Munster A for today’s B&I Cup quarter-final against Leinster at Donnybrook.
O’Sullivan lines out alongside two more experienced players in the back row of a side anxious to buck their underdog status and take a giant step in pursuit of retaining the trophy they won for a second time last season.
The Cork youngster will be in good company with Dave O’Callaghan and Conor Oliver in a back row that looks very well balanced.
It looks certain to be a difficult task for the reigning champions, however, given that Leinster have home advantage after topping their group.
Dave Johnston captains Munster A with fellow senior players Stephen Fitzgerald, Ronan O’Mahony, Bill Johnston, Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, O’Callaghan and Oliver. Fitzgerald starts at full-back with O’Mahony and Calvin Nash on the wings.
Skipper Johnston is partnered with Alex McHenry in the centre, outside his brother Bill and Academy scrum-half Jack Stafford, who makes his first appearance in this year’s competition.
Head coach Peter Malone is well aware of the task facing his side: “It’s a big challenge against a team that topped their pool and having to play an away quarter-final. But saying that, it’s a quarter-final in Ireland, we know Leinster pretty well, the players would have mixed with one another through under-age representative teams and we know they’re going to be strong.
“It is a good benchmark for us to play against an in-form side and it’s a big and exciting challenge. It certainly raises the bar in terms of how big a challenge it is and it’s going to be an examination for us in terms of the depth of the squad.
“The thing is we have some young players in the Academy who will be bursting to get on the field and try to prove they are as good if not better than their counterparts up there. Quietly we have belief in our players and it’s a great opportunity for them.”
Leinster head coach Noel McNamara has also included U20 internationals, headed by Bryan Byrne, who skippers the side.
Byrne will be flanked in the front row by twin brother Ed and Clontarf’s Vakh Abdaladze.
There is plenty of senior experience in the second-row pairing of Mick Kearney and former Munster player Ian Nagle.
Josh Murphy, who has made seven starts for the senior side this season, is named at No. 8 in a back row with Peadar Timmins and Óisín Dowling.
Tommy O’Brien, who captained Ireland U20 in this year’s Six Nations campaign, is named in a back three with Jack Kelly and Barry Daly.
There are a further four Ireland U20 players — Ronan Foley, Hugh O’Sullivan, Harry Byrne and Sean O’Brien — named on the bench. Jersey Reds face Doncaster in today’s other quarter-final while Ulster A travel to Goldington Road to play Bedford Blues tomorrow. In the final tie, Ealing face Cornish Pirates.
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