herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Clarke's men have fate in own hands

Ireland U20s v Wales U20s Dubarry Park, Friday 7.35, Live RTé 2

The best Ireland U20 Six Nations performance since the competition was established in the season 2005-2006 rocketed Allen Clarke's side to the top of the table on points difference from England and Wales.

Better again, Ireland have a considerable points advantage. France and Scotland are one point behind the leading three.

The basic fact is that Ireland have the destiny of the title in their own hands and a more than handy bunch of players to get the job done with a certain Rhys Ruddock as their captain.

The son of former Wales Grand Slam coach Mike Ruddock is a quality individual, by all accounts.

The heavily outweighed front five have scrummaged well. The handicap of size should be partly addressed by the first start for 130kg prop Stewart Maguire.

The half-back combination of John Cooney and James McKinney has not functioned as well as it can do. There is more to come from them, especially opposite the exquisite playmaking skills of Wales out-half Matthew Jarvis and the try-scoring creden-tials of winger Kristian Phillips.

Verdict: Ireland

Ireland: A Conway; D Hudson, B Macken, N Spence, T O'Halloran; J McKinney, J Cooney; J O'Connell, N Annett, S Maguire, D O'Callaghan, B Marshall, R Ruddock (capt), D Ryan, P Butler.

Wales U20: D Fish; J Loxton, B John, S Williams, K Phillips; M Jarvis, G Davies; D Watchurst, R Williams, S Gardiner, S Macauley, L Peers, M Allen, J Navidi (capt), T Faletau.



West tinkers in bid to lift spirits

Ireland Women v Wales Women

Ashbourne RFC, Friday 7.30

Coach Kevin West has promoted The Exiles' Alison Miller and Leinster's Grace Davitt to start against Wales in the Women's Six Nations at the Meath venue this evening.

These are the two changes made to lift the squad's spirits following their loss to England on the third weekend. They stand level with Wales on one win each.

There are six Leinster players in the first 15 with wings Davitt and Amy Davis, scrum-half Tania Rosser, prop Fiona Coghlan, openside Mary-Louise Reilly and number eight Orla Brennan.

Ireland Women: N Briggs; A Davis, J O'Sullivan, G Devitt, A Miller; H Brosnan, T Rosser; F Coghlan (capt), C Fanning, L Day, K O'Loughlin, M-L Reilly, O Brennan, C Molloy, J Neville.

Wales Women: M Evans; A Young, C Redman, N Thomas, N Evans; A Thomas, A Day; C Edwards, R Bowden, J Davies, G Hallett, R Taylor, C Nicholas, J Kift, M Berry (capt).

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