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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ireland U20s aiming to make their first final against familiar World Cup foe

James Ryan
James Ryan

It will take something out of the extraordinary for Ireland to make their way to the first U20 World Cup final at Mancester this evening (KO5.30, TG4 & Sky Sports 3).

For a country so stretched for playing resources at tournament level, coach Nigel Carolan has lost half his starting pack in tight-head Conan O'Donnell, his primary back-up Conor Kenny, second row Peter Claffey, openside Will Connors and the latest victim in blindside Cillian Gallagher.

This is not to overlook the importance of fly-half general Bill Johnston during the tournament, full-back Jack Power before it and centre Sam Arnold, who hasn't play all season.

This is a catastrophic list of casualties that further highlights the achievement of emerging as the unbeaten winners from 'The Pool of Death' which effectively meant the end of New Zealand (33-24) and Wales (26-25).

This is the signature season announcing the arrival of captain James Ryan as a guaranteed future Ireland senior international.

Prop Andrew Porter is not too far behind in what the loose-head brings to the table.

This group have defied the formbook through a unity of purpose designed by Carolan and worked out by the natural leaders under his command.

"The players have done really well to get themselves into a World Championship semi-final," noted Carolan.

"There's a great belief amongst this group and they've shown what they can do as a team over the course of the last number of games."

Ireland will need to draw on all the experiences that have taken them this far to outdo a muscular, multi-skilled Argentina, also looking to make the breakthrough to their first final.

The South Americans have been very impressive in seeing off France (24-15), Japan (39-20) and another semi-finalist in South Africa (19-13) to come out as winners from highly competitive Pool C.

"Argentina are going to present another big test for us," said the Irish coach.

"They have a lot of physicality up front as well as pace out wide so we are going to need to be at the top of our game."

This one should go right to the wire.

Ireland: J Stockdale (Ulster); M Byrne (Leinster), S Daly (Munster), C O'Brien, H Keenan (both Leinster); J McPhillips (Ulster); S Kernis (Connacht); A Porter (Leinster), A McBurney (Ulster), B Betts, S O'Connor (both Munster), J Ryan (capt), G Jones, D Aspil, M Degan (all Leinster).

Argentina: B Delguy; T Malanos, J Mallia (capt), S Mare, F Dominguez; H Mioti, P Baronio; R Ricco, G Balduncial, S Medrano, F Molina, I Calas, M Kremer, M Romanini, V Boronat.

Verdict: Argentina.

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