IRELAND U20 rugby team coach, Mike Ruddock, says his team are ready to cut England down to size at the IRB Junior World Championships in Italy.
The physically intimidating English smashed Ireland into submission when the teams met in the Six Nations last March, but Ruddock says his team will be better prepared to cope with their power this time around.
“They were very big and physical in the Six Nations, but too many of our lads dropped off tackles in that game by going in too high,” said the Irish coach yesterday.
“We’ve put a real focus on our tackling since then. The England lads are big, but they can’t run without any legs so we’ll be chopping them off and putting them on the floor. We’ll then put the heat on the ball thereafter.”
Ireland lost by 31 points that day but their preparations for the world championships couldn’t have gone any better. They’ve beaten Munster and Leinster development teams in practice matches, and have been strengthened by the return of a clutch of players who missed the Six Nations due to injury and Magners League commitments.
Ireland also play South Africa and Scotland but that first match against England is likely to define the campaign.
“It’ll be a real cup final alright because we need to win that first game. I haven’t finalised the team against England yet but there will be eight or nine changes to the team that lost against them in the Six Nations.
“We’ve had more opportunity to work together cohesively as a unit than we had before that game too.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for the Six Nations though because we didn’t play well. England are Grand Slam champions and they’ll be confident they can progress in this tournament.
“We’ve got to play with the passion of underdogs but with the mentality that we’re winners as well. It’s all about trying to find that balance.”
Ireland have just a four-day turn-around after the England match before they play South Africa, who, like England, are a team of giants and one of the pre-tournament favourites.
“I had a good chat with Gert Smal about the South African team and it sounds like they have some very good players,” says Ruddock.
The set of backs that will board the plane for Italy are arguably the most naturally talented generation this country has ever produced.
Given an adequate platform by the pack, they will shine in Italy.
“I think the conditions will suit us,” agreed Ruddlock.
“We have a very talented back-line with quality players like Paddy Jackson, James McKinney, Luke Marshall, JJ Hanrahan, Brendan Macken, Craig Gilroy and Andrew Conway. There’s some great pace, footwork and footballing skills there. We have a very potent attacking back-line and the harder the ground will be the quicker the rucks will be and the better the presentation of the ball will be.”
Ireland U20 squad (2011 IRB Junior World Championship): N Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)*, F Bealham (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), A Boyle (UCD/Leinster)*, S Buckley (Garryowen/Munster), C Carey (Ballymena/Ulster), A Conneely (Galway Corinthians/Connacht), A Conway (Blackrock College/Leinster)*, D Doyle (UCD/Leinster)*, P du Toit (UCD/Leinster), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), D Gallagher (Dublin University/Ulster), C Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), I Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster), P Jackson (DungannonUlster), M Kearney (Clontarf/Leinster), A Kelly (UCD/Leinster), B Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster)*, K Marmion (UWIC/Exile), L Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster), E McKeon (Galwegians/Connacht), J McKinney (Queen’s University/Ulster)*, J Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)*, T O’Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht)*, D Qualter (Buccaneers/Connacht), J Tracy (UCD/Leinster).
* Denotes players who were involved in last year’s JWC.
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