Nigel Carolan’s Irish side will bid to create their own bit of history today when they take on Argentina at Manchester Academy Stadium in the semi-finals of the World Rugby U20 Championship.
They have already reached a number of notable landmarks, becoming the first national Irish men’s side to defeat New Zealand and also the first to win all three pool games in this competition.
But this is another step and this evening they are hoping to book a place in the final for the first time in the nine-year history of the competition.
“We have come through a very tough pool and have managed to deal with the challenges we have encountered,” said Carolan.
“We have had a good look at Argentina and know that they will be formidable opposition. They have played some very good rugby to get to this point and we will need another big performance to get over them.”
England and South Africa, the only countries other than New Zealand to win this championship, meet in the other semi-final this evening.
Los Pumitas’ are coached by Nicolas Fernandez Lobbe, the former Argentine international who, like his younger brother Juan Martin, lived in Manchester for a few years while playing for Sale Sharks.
Argentina, like Ireland, come into the semi-final with three straight wins, having defeated France 24-15, South Africa 19-13 and Japan 39-20. They have scored eight tries and conceded six for a points difference of 82-48.
Ireland have booked a semi-final spot for only the second time on the back of a 26-25 win over Wales, 33-24 against New Zealand and a 35-7 success over Georgia. Carolan’s men have scored 10 tries and conceded nine in those games for a points difference of 94-56.
“We have prepared very well. It is very demanding competition, five competitive matches in less than three weeks,” said Carolan. “The key to it is recovery and making sure players are not overloading.”
The Irish team shows just one change from the side which defeated New Zealand for the first time in the second round of games with Sean O’Connor from Cashel coming into the second row to partner captain James Ryan.
O’Connor replaces Sligo’s Cillian Gallagher, who was injured last time out. Gallagher is one of three players to have his tournament cut short through injury, the others being Conor Kenny and Bill Johnston.
“We did a good review of the Georgian match and looked ahead to Argentina, but the lads also got time to recover and we are happy heading into this one. It’s a big occasion for everyone and we are looking forward to it and hope to give a good account of ourselves.”
J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins); M Byrne (Terenure), S Daly (Cork Con), C O’Brien (Clontarf), H Keenan (UCD); J McPhillips (Queen’s University), S Kerins (Sligo); A Porter (UCD), A McBurney (Ballymena), B Betts (Young Munster); S O’Connor (Cashel), J Ryan (Lansdowne); G Jones (UCD), D Aspil (St Mary’s RFC), M Deegan (Lansdowne)
V O’Brien (Cork Con), J Bollard (Dublin University), A Coyle (Naas), E Mintern (Cork Constitution), K Brown (Shannon), N Saunders (Epsom College), B Connon (Newcastle Falcons), J O’Brien (UCD)
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