U20 losing sequence in pool stage not ‘a sign of malaise’

Head coach Noel McNamara does not believe Ireland’s failure to win a game in the pool stage of the World Rugby U20 Championship should be a cause for alarm.

Two years ago, when Ireland reached the U20 final for the first time, current senior stars Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan and Andrew Porter were in the squad.

Last year Ireland were defeated in all three pool games, including a 69-3 hammering by eventual winners New Zealand, but the narrow losses to Scotland and Italy proved costly and a reduced seeding saw them draw against hosts France and South Africa — both of whom have now reached the semi-finals — this year.

Ireland’s worst finish in the 10 years of this tournament has been ninth and that’s the best position they can hope for this time, starting with trying to beat Scotland in Perpignan on Tuesday after losing 24-20 to Georgia on Thursday night.

McNamara, who has coached at schools, age grade, AIL, and is currently elite player development officer with Leinster, is well placed to judge the reserves of Ireland’s underage talent.

“The reality of it is, the purpose of this team is two-fold,” said McNamara, who is in his first year in charge of the national U-20 side and whose management includes Paul O’Connell. “The purpose of this team is to be as competitive as you possibly can in these competitions and also to provide players for the national team. I have no doubt that we have got players here that will go forward into the professional ranks and play for Ireland.

“From that perspective this has been an excellent pathway team for Ireland. Unfortunately last year and this year we haven’t been as competitive as we would have liked. It is important to note the quality of the opposition that we played against, in particular, this year.

“We did look a bit flat there against Georgia. The toll of the French game and how close we came, probably cost us. Also, the South Africa game took its toll there in the end. We have a number of guys who have played 80 minutes, 80 minutes and on again.

“I certainly don’t think it’s a sign of malaise in our pathway or in this team in particular either.

“Hopefully they will be able to demonstrate that strength in depth in these next two games,” he added.


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