Irish set for a Bok' barrage
COACH Mike Ruddock (pictured) was spot on when he labelled Ireland's group "the most physical" of the U20 World Championship.
The Irish, who won four out of five in the Six Nations, have been wounded on the double by being fated to tackle hosts South Africa tonight, on the opening day of the competition.
They will also have to deal with the power of Six Nations champions England and the none-too-shy Italians in the next week or more.
The problem for Ireland, at this level, that they simply do not have the depth to be able to hold their form deep into the tournament.
The best they can reasonably plan for is a first-day upset over the junior Springboks and an almighty shot at an England collection that were far too big, too strong and too fast for them in the grand slam decider in March.
Tight-head cornerstone Tadhg Furlong has recovered from a serious shoulder injury, suffered at last year's World Cup, to be tasked with the unenviable assignment of subduing the South Africa scrum without the proper preparation of game time.
Paddy Jackson has been taken out of the squad in what is a confusing decision by Ulster. The fly-half will have the whole summer and pre-season to ponder his lamentable display in the Heineken Cup final.
Munster hooker Niall Scannell will captain the side and JJ Hanrahan, another from the southern province, will assume control at out-half.
Ulster's Peter Nelson will come in at full-back for Shane Layden, another to miss out on the competition.
Ruddock has already alluded to the backs-against-the-wall win in France as a source of comfort and confidence that Ireland can win away from home when least expected.
SOUTH AFRICA v IRELAND
Stellenbosch, today (KO 5.45pm Irish time, live on TG4 & Sky Sports 2)
South Africa: D Leyds; P Jordaan, P Howard, J Serfontein, R Rhule; T Jantjies, A Griesel; S Kitshoff, M Pretorious, A Dell, P Willemse, P du Toit, S Adendorff, W Liebenburg (capt), F Booysen.
Ireland: P Nelson (Ulster), B Daly (Leinster), F Horan (Leinster), C Farrell (Ulster), Sam Coghlan-Murray (Leinster); JJ Hanrahan (Munster), K Marmion (Connacht); D Merrey (Leinster), N Scannell (Munster, Capt), T Furlong (Leinster), T Beirne (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Coghlan (Leinster), J Conan (Leinster), C Gilsenan (Leinster).