Monday 18 February 2019

Ireland coach faces different test


This might just be the stiffest psychological examination of Noel McNamara's first season in charge of the Ireland U20s.

He has to man-manage the dip in importance from a planned route to the semi-final to a 9th-12th place play-off against Scotland at Stade Aime Giral in Perpignan, this afternoon (KO3.0, EirSport 2).

Ireland were Georgia's first ever victims out of three years in this World Cup competition. That loss came on the back of going down to France (26-24) on the opening night and South Africa (30-17) in the second round of fixtures.

It must be noted how both the hosts France and the Junior Springboks have made it into the semi-finals later on tonight, where they will encounter the holders New Zealand and England, respectively.

It has been a physically draining two weeks in the south of France.

The last thing Ireland would have wanted was a Celtic clash with one of their Six Nations adversaries when there are more exotic options out there.

"We had three tough pool games and while there were lots of positives to take from the games, unfortunately they weren't reflected on the scoreboard," said McNamara.

"Scotland will present another big challenge for the team.

"Having played them in the U20 Six Nations earlier this season and also in a warm-up fixture in Edinburgh ahead of this tournament, we know what to expect from them."

Looking ahead to Sunday, the winners of this one will engage with either Georgia or Japan for a ninth-place finish in the tournament.

Ireland: M Silvester (Leinster); J Hume (Ulster), S O'Brien (Leinster), P Sylvester (Munster), T O'Brien; H Byrne, H O'Sullivan; J Duggan (all Leinster), D Barron (Munster), J Byrne (Leinster), M Dalton (Ulster), J Dunne (Leinster), J Dunleavy, M Agnew (both Ulster), C Doris (Leinster, capt).

Replacements: D Sheehan (Leinster), B O'Connor (Munster), J Wojtkowicz (Connacht), C Ryan (Leinster), J Daly (Munster); J Stewart (Ulster), C Dean, T Roche (both Leinster).

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