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Saturday 16 December 2017

Ireland must put focus on attack when facing Scots

Ireland U20 v Scotland U20, Dubarry Park, Tonight, 7.35

It is one thing for Irish rugby to be held in such high esteem around the world, it is quite another to maintain and improve that state of health in the coming years.

As the O'Driscolls and O'Connells wind down their careers post-2011 World Cup, the next wave of young men should be knocking on the door to international rugby.

The current crop of U20s lead the Six Nations on points difference from England (+17) coming into the final round of matches, with Scotland standing between them and the Championship.

Last week, the defence suffered against Wales in a way it did not against England. This can be partly attributed to the greater creativity of the baby Dragons.

However, out-half James McKinney and replacement wing Eoin Griffin were obviously at fault for the split in defence for Dan Fish's two tries, McKinney shooting out of the line for the first, Griffin inexplicably drifting out of his path for the second.



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Even so, there should be a greater emphasis on attack. Ireland's talked about three-quarter line remains a thing of potential. This could be the night for them to show what they can do, with Simon Zebo and Griffin coming in for Darren Hudson and Brendan Macken, respectively.

The lineout and backrow have been the bedrock of this campaign, hooker Niall Annett's impressive throwing finding favour in the air, the breakaway unit of Dominic Ryan, Paddy Butler and captain Rhys Ruddock showing unbelievable aggression and fortitude.

Scotland have kept faith with the same side that fell to England (27-6) last Friday, their coach Eamon John noting how Ireland have "made Athlone a bit of a fortress. All the big guns have been scalped there".

First, Ireland will have to secure their fourth win out of five against a useful Scotland outfit; then, they will have to wait until Sunday to see whether England can bridge the gap in points difference in what looks a more difficult task away to France.

Verdict: Ireland

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

Scotland: T Brown; O Grove, J Johnstone, A Dunbar, D Fife; A Blair, A Black; N Little, A Walker, C Phillips, M Reid, R Harley, M Maltman, D Denton, S McInally.

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