From the uncapped to the peerless captain: 5 players key to Irish U20 hopes next week
NIGEL CAROLAN’S IRELAND under 20s team will begin their world championship journey on Tuesday, when they meet Wales in Manchester. Here are some of the key men you need to know before kick-off comes.
TO THOSE OF you who didn’t get the chance to watch much Friday night under 20s action during the Six Nations and wonder what the fuss over Ireland’s captain is about, you’ll soon see.
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The totemic second row leads his team in every way. He is the lynch-pin of the set-piece, a powerful carrier, brutish tackler and more than capable of passing out of the tackle and forcing line-breaks directly on the back of his efforts. Just as Garry Ringrose had to cope with Brian O’Driscoll comparisons, Ryan will find himself being measured up to Paul O’Connell.
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At 6′ 8″ and 108kg he is a powerful, destructive force in a pack that is greatly needs a physical presence, particularly with his Six Nations second row partner Peter Claffey missing this tournament through injury.
Already capped in an Ulster side that is rarely short on talented outside backs. Those opportunities were Ireland’s loss during the early Six Nations fixtures, but having Stockdale available for a run of games will be a massive boost to Nigel Carolan’s side.
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Stockdale impressed in last summer’s tournament, a year on he’s a powerful presence who is big and able enough to play anywhere across the back-line. Will be eager to show his best form on the hard ground of a summer tournament.
One of the sizeable crop of rugby talent coming out of Sligo, Gallagher was one of the real silver linings from an overall disappointing Six Nations campaign.
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The Summerhill schooled powerhouse came through the Connacht academy as a second row, but his speed off the mark and ball skills allowed Ireland deploy him as a blindside. Still just 18, he can do more damage from there in this tournament too.
Injury deprived Ireland of Munster’s big playmaking hope for the future early this year, but the Clonmel man is fit to take the reins in Manchester.
Though uncapped at this level because of shoulder injury, Johnston has the unshakeable confidence that an out-half requires to shoulder a team’s burden and with Stockdale, Conor O’Brien and Shane Daly outside, he’ll have firepower to ignite in the back-line.
In his second year at this age grade, the unmistakable figure of Porter is yet another über-physical loosehead to come out of the Leinster academy.
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The UCD man is an enormous cog in Ireland’s scrum and his fitness to keep the set-piece together will be an important frame for Ireland to build on, while his sheer power with ball in hand is sure to draw defenders his way and present gainline for Ireland.
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