Six Nations champions Ireland kick off their World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina this evening at 7.30 against England.
The starting side has a different look to the one that lifted the Six Nations trophy in the spring.
There have been quite a few injuries to the side over the last few weeks. Out-half Harry Byrne, centre David Hawkshaw, second-row Brian Deeny and back rows Martin Moloney and Scott Penny are all absent from the tournament through injury.
Both England and Ireland retain nine players from the game in February.
Ireland will field three debutantes Iwan Hughes at full-back, Stewart Moore in midfield and Azur Allison starts at eight. There are a further four uncapped players on the bench. A change in the tournament rules, where all 28 players tog out, then any eight subs can be used mean more debutantes will likely be fielded. Given Ireland will have three games in eight days, management says all 28 players can expect to see game time.
For tonight’s game John Hodnett moves to the flank to accommodate Allison while Jake Flannery starts at out-half, where he plays for his club. It’s a familiar half-back partnership as Flannery and Casey play club rugby together at Shannon.
England retain almost their entire pack, with seven of the eight forwards from the six Nations starting in Santa Fe. There are some familiar names for rugby fans among the England ranks. De Glanville starts at fullback, Tom that is, son of Phil the former England Captain and Bath stalwart of the 1990’s. While Vunipola lines out in the 10 shirt, Manu this time, cousin of Mako and Billy, also a Saracen.
Noel McNamara’s side got the better of England in the Six Nations opener. That was a somewhat unexpected outcome against a team with far more senior club experience. Despite trailing early in the game and at half time Ireland came out on top in Musgrave park that night. The highlights being the late try and restricting the visitors to just three points in the second half.
Ireland’s lack of proficiency in the last two World Championships, rather than success in the Six Nations has led to a third-place seeding in their pool. The side only finished 11th of 12 in the 2018 renewal of the tournament and ninth in 2017. It’s a tough group with Australia and Italy in there alongside the old enemy. The task is made steeper still with only the top side in each of the three pools guaranteed progression.
Australia in four days time is the Wolf puppies’ next assignment, before the final pool game, also in Santa Fe, on Wednesday week.