Thursday 7 February 2013

The importance of the Under 20's

As featured on Harpin On Rugby

Links galore here; Check out Heaney's link in particular -> great video.

After the impact that Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy are making on the Irish team of late, so recently after graduating from the Under 20's, now is a great time to see if this has been one of graduations, or is the Irish under 20's identifying talent, and nurturing them through for long distinguished careers.


15. Shane Layden
14. Conor Finn
13. Chris Farrell
12. JJ Hanrahan
11. Sam Coughlan Murray
10. Paddy Jackson
9. Luke McGrath Luke McGrath
1. Kyle McCall
2. Niall Scannell
3. Peter Reilly
4. Iain Henderson
5. Daniel Qualter
6. Conor Gilsenan
7. Aaron Conneely
8. Jack Conan

16. James Rael
17. Des Merrey
18. Diarmuid Higgins
19. Tadhg Beirne
20. Jordan Coughlan
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Cathal Marsh
23. Foster Horan Foster Horan Try

Last year's group includes names that should already be known to those interested in the first teams of the provinces.

Paddy Jackson started at out-half for the Under 20's in last years 6 nations, before going on to claim the starting 10 jersey for Ulster and playing in a Heineken Cup final; Iain Henderson has already gone on to win his first caps for the full Irish team last Autumn; and Kieran Marmion has claimed the 9 jersey as his own for Connacht this season.

And after only a year gone, there will definitely be more from that group making a name for themselves soon such as JJ Hanrahan who was nominated for JWC player of the tournament, Shane Layden and Conor Finn who impressed in last season's 6 Nations, Sam Coughlan - Murray who is highly thought of in the Leinster academy, and has been earmarked since appearing for Newbridge in schools rugby. Daniel Qualter, Chris Farrell and Conor Gilsenan are also promising members of the Connacht, Ulster and Leinster academies respectively.

While Jordan Coughlan has been identified by Joe Schimdt to change position and become a bruising inside centre.

I found it interesting to find out that 21 of the 23 mentioned were still playing the game with a provincial or an English side, while acknowledging that not all will continue to have a career in the game, it seems to me that more of the Under 20's are getting a chance to further their careers.

2011 JWC squad JWC squad 2011 2011 2011

15 - Michael Sherlock (Clontarf/Leinster)
14 - Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster)
13 - Alex Kelly (UCD/Leinster)
12 - Luke Marshall (Ballymena/Ulster)
11 - Andrew Boyle (UCD/Leinster)
10 - Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster)
9 - Blane McIlroy (Ballymena/Ulster)
1 - James Tracy (UCD/Leinster)
2 - Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) (capt)
3 - Martin Moore (Lansdowne/Leinster)
4 - Michael Kearney (Clontarf/Leinster)
5 - Daniel Qualter (Buccaneers/Connacht)
6 - Shane Buckley (Garryowen/Munster)
7 - Aaron Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht)
8 - Jordi Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster)


16 - David Doyle (UCD/Leinster)
17 - Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
18 - Iain Henderson (Queen's University/Ulster)
19 - Cathal O'Flaherty (Cork Constitution/Munster)
20 - Mark Dolan (Corinthians/Connacht)
21 - JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster)
22 - Tiernan O'Halloran (Galwegians/Connacht)

Even the year before we start to see more familar names such as Gilroy. We also see Andrew Conway who has recently signed for Munster from Leinster, and James McKinney who earned a move to Rotherham Titans from Ulster during the summer.

Other names feature again, and would go on to star for the Under 20s the following year include Henderson, Hanrahan, Qualter and Jackson.

Luke Marshall has impressed with Ulster this season and featured in the Irish XV vs Fiji. He has a very bright future ahead of him.

Other names such as Niall Annett, who is starting to feature for Ulster, Mick Kearney, of Connacht, who is knocking on the door of a second row place, and Eoin McKeon who seems to have nailed down his place in Connacht as well as Tiernan O'Hallorhan who frequently looks Connacht's best player in Heineken Cup games.

Jordi Murphy is another who made the step up, and has featured well for Leinster in Heineken Cup games, and is challenged Kevin McLaughlin for that blindside jersey

Brendan Macken, , Martin Moore, , Blaine McIlroy, James Tracy,  Andrew Boyle all still feature for their academies, with Macken getting the most game time. Surely time is running out for them soon though.


The starting team in 2010 vs England was:

15. Andrew Conway (Blackrock College/Leinster);
14. Darren Hudson (St. Mary's College/Leinster),
13. Brendan Macken (Blackrock College/Leinster),
12. Nevin Spence (Ballynahinch/Ulster),
11. Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster);
10. James McKinney (Queen's University/Ulster),
9. John Cooney (UCD/Leinster);
1. Bryan Cagney (UCC/Munster),
2. Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster),
3. Jack O'Connell (Lansdowne/Leinster),
4. David O'Callaghan (UCC/Munster),
5. Ben Marshall (UCD/Leinster),
6. Rhys Ruddock (UCD/Leinster) (capt),
7. Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster),
8. Patrick Butler (Shannon/Munster).

Replacements: Duncan Casey (Shannon/Munster), Stewart Maguire (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Brian Hayes (Cork Constitution/Munster), Robin O'Sullivan (Bective Rangers/Leinster), Michael Heaney (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Brian Kingston (Blackrock College/Leinster), Eoin Griffin (Corinthians/Connacht).

This highlights more than most, how many good players are coming through the ranks of Under 20's. Darren Hudson is still in the Leinster academy, and Nevin Spence was a star for Ulster with a huge future ahead of him before his untimely death. Add to that Heaney and Griffen from the bench and you can see the strength of this year's time.

For me, this also highlights the ongoing problem Ireland have with developing props. You look at the pack and pick out star names like Ruddock, Ryan, Dave O'Callaghan and Butler, but not one of the names identified have been a prop no matter what year we've looked at.

Out of interest, here is the English team from that night, with the names I recognize highlighted.

ENGLAND U-20: Jack Wallace (London Wasps); Will Hurrell (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Tom Casson (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester); Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Sam Harrison (Leicester Tigers); Lee Imiolek (Sale Sharks), Jamie George (Saracens), Shaun Knight (Gloucester), Danny Wright (Gloucester), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), Jackson Wray (Saracens), Jacob Rowan (Leeds Carnegie) (capt), Alex Gray (Newcastle Falcons).
Replacements: Arthur Ellis (London Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), George Kruis (Saracens), Jordi Pasqualin (Gloucester), Jake Sharp (Saracens), Christian Wade (London Wasps).

The class of 09's biggest winner is clearly Peter O'Mahony, who with Ferris injured so much, has just about claimed his shirt on the Irish team. It's interesting to note here that most of the other teams didn't feature props that would go on to have a career in the game, while Jack McGrath and Paddy McAllister are still plucking along. Jack McGrath is now a loosehead and fancied to step up to fill Heinken van der Merwe's sizeable shoes should he leave fro Stade Francais as is being reported.

I'm only after noticing Conor Murray at sub scrum half here, Matt Healy is still making a name for himself, as a winger for Lansdowne if this video is anything to go by.

15 - David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)
14 - Ronan O'Mahony (Garryowen/Munster)
13 - Ian McKinley (UCD/Leinster)
12 - Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Michael Keating (Clontarf/Leinster)
10 - Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
9 - Matthew Healy (Lansdowne/Leinster)
1 - Paddy McAllister (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
2 - Thomas Sexton (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
3 - Jack McGrath (St. Mary's College/Leinster)
4 - Ciaran Ruddock (Neath/Exiles)
5 - James Sandford (Queens University/Ulster)
6 - Rhys Ruddock (Millfield School/Exiles)
7 - Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
8 - Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt)

16 - David McGregor (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
17 - Adam Macklin (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
18 - Mark Flanagan (UCD/Leinster)
19 - Michael Noone (Seapoint/Leinster)
20 - Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
21 - Andrew Burke (Garryowen/Munster)
22 - Shane Gahan (Lansdowne/Leinster)


IRELAND UNDER-20 TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v Scotland Under-20s, RBS U-20 Six Nations, Dubarry Park, Athlone, Friday, February 22, kick-off 7.30pm):

15 - David Kearney (Lansdowne/Leinster)
14 - Sean Scanlon (UCC/Munster)
13 - Eoin O'Malley (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
12 - Eamonn Sheridan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
11 - Chris Cochrane (Queen's University/Ulster)
10 - Martin Dufficy (Dublin University/Leinster)
9 - David Moore (Blackrock College/Leinster)
1 - Paul Karayiannis (Queen's University/Ulster)
2 - Jason Harris-Wright (Greystones/Leinster)
3 - Ben Barclay (UCD/Leinster)
4 - James Sandford (Queen's University/Ulster)
5 - Eoin Sheriff (Lansdowne/Leinster)
6 - Kieran Essex (UL Bohemians/Munster)
7 - Paul Ryan (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt)
8 - Patrick Mallon (Lansdowne/Leinster)

16 - Stephen Douglas (Ballymena/Ulster)
17 - Stephen Archer (UCC/Munster)
18 - David Nolan (Galwegians/Connacht)
19 - Ian Nagle (UCC/Munster)
20 - Ian Porter (Queen's University/Ulster)
21 - Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
22 - Conor Cleary (Greystones/Leinster)

2008 emphasizes how important it seems to be to have at least two years of Under 20's experience under your belt to make it in this game. Madigan and Kearney feature in both 08 and 09 and other than that, Eoin O'Malley, Harris-Wright, Nagle and Archer are the only other names I've heard before.

Harris Wright made a name for himself in England with Bristol before returning to Connacht, a route that a few of this side and others have taken, like Eoin Sherriff at Saracens and James Sandford at London Irish,


More recognisable names Jones, Cave, Earls, Keatley, O'Donoghue, Healy, Hagan, Browne (back at Connacht) O'Brien, O'Donnell, O'Connor and more names that have been exiled but continue to have strong careers, like Shane Monahan now at Gloucester or Ruadhri Murphy now at Brumbies.

I count 5 Internationals, one Lion, and 2 potential internationals on this team.
15. Felix Jones (Seapoint/Leinster);
14. Shane Monahan (Dublin University/Leinster),
13. Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster),
12. Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers/Connacht),
11. Keith Earls (Thomond/Munster);
10. Ian Keatley (UCD/Leinster),
9. Paul O'Donohoe (UCD/Leinster);
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster),
2. Richard Sweeney (St. Mary's College/Leinster),
3. Jamie Hagan (Greystones/Leinster),
4. Conor McInerney (UCD/Leinster),
5. Andrew Browne (Galwegians/Connacht),
6. Thomas Anderson (Dungannon/Ulster),
7. David Pollock (Queen's University/Ulster) (capt),
8. Sean O'Brien (UCD/Leinster).

Replacements used: Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster) for O'Brien (32 mins), Ruaidhri Murphy (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Hagan, Neilus Keogh (UCC/Munster) for McInerney (both 78). Not used: Ger Slattery (Young Munster/Munster), David Drake (Ballymena/Ulster), Niall O'Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Kyle Tonetti (Blackrock College/Leinster).

ENGLAND U-20: David Doherty (London Wasps); Ollie Dodge (Leicester Tigers), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Adam Powell (Saracens), Selorm Kuadey (Sale Sharks); Seb Jewell (NEC Harlequins), Danny Care (NEC Harlequins) (capt); Charlie Beech (Northampton Saints), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Dave Attwood (Bristol Rugby), Phil Hoy (Northampton Saints), Alex Shaw (Leicester Tigers), Chevvy Pennycook (Bristol Rugby), David Tait (Sale Sharks).

Replacements used: Matt Cox (Worcester Warriors) for Attwood, Frankie Neale (Saracens) (both half-time), Hugo Ellis (London Wasps) for Tait, Jordan Turner-Hall (NEC Harlequins) for Neale (both 48), Tom Stanfield (London Irish) for Mullan, Mullan for Cole (80+1). Not used: Tom Mercey (Saracens), Richard Bolt (Exeter Chiefs).

The 20's were only formed in 2006/07, but it's worth looking at the last few years of U21 too to see how much of a difference there is. I count 5 french that I recognise; Medard, Mermoz, Beauxis, Montes and Ouedraogo, compared to 14 Irish.

Admitedly, some of those 14 Irish, like Duncan Williams and Billy Holland, are still not featuring prominently for Munster, which at this stage they should be. It's more a case of 8 internationals from this side ( and Paul Marshall, who is knocking on the door). Which is a good return.

FRANCE U-21: Maxime Medard; Yann Fior, Thibault Lacroix, Maxime Mermoz, Gregory Puyo; Lionel Beauxis, Fabien Cibray (capt); Florian Cazalot, Laurent Sempere, Yohan Montes, Julien Ledevedec, Loic Jacquet, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Nicolas Bontinck, Fabien Alexandre.

Replacements: Arnaud Heguy, Laurent Cabarry, Carpentier, Steve Malonga, Damien Neveu, Thomas Anies, Julien Jeuvray.

IRELAND U-21: Fionn Carr; Peter Durcan, Darren Cave, Conan Doyle, Matthew Williams; Jonathan Sexton, Paul Marshall; Darragh Hurley, Stuart Philpott (capt), Paul Doran-Jones, Daniel Tuohy, Devin Toner, Ross Noonan, Ejike Uzoigwe, Billy Holland.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Callum Black, David McGowan, Sean O'Brien, Duncan Williams, Tom Gleeson, Fergus McFadden.

2005 U21 2005 U19

Final year that we go back features some Lions in Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris not to mention Trimble, and Chris Henry, while Stevenson, Caldwell and Andress are prominent for their sides.

(15) Mark Kettyle (Belfast Harlequins) (14) Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins) (13) Andrew Trimble (Ballymena) (12) Greg Stafford (Lansdowne) (11) Paul McKenzie (Belfast Harlequins) (10) Barry Keeshan (Cork Constitution) (9) David O'Leary (UCC) (1) Michael Diffley (Buccaneers) (2) Stuart Philpott (Saracens) (3) John Andress (Belfast Harlequins) (4) Lewis Stevenson (Belfast Harlequins) (5) Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon) (6) Brett McNamee (Northampton) (Captain) (7) Oisin Hennessy (Dungannon) (8) Stephen Ferris (Dungannon)

Replacements used: Eamonn Bracken (Buccaneers) for Ferris (29-41 mins), Kieran Geraghty (London Irish) for Kettyle (53), Joseph Merrigan (Corinthians) for Philpott (61), Chris Henry (Malone) for Hennessy (68), Bracken for Andress (76). Not used: Mark Melbourne (Garryowen), Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College).

Coach: Mark McDermott Assistant Coach: Brian Walsh Manager: David Haslett

ENGLAND UNDER-21: O Morgan (Gloucester); T Biggs (Leeds), M Cornwell (Leicester), R Davis (Bath), T Varndell (Leicester); T Flood (Newcastle), B Foden (Sale Sharks); M Cusack (Leeds), N Briggs (Rotherham), A Croall (Saracens), R Blaze (Worcester), T Ryder (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), D Seymour (Saracens), M Hopley (Worcester).

Replacements used: M Hampson (Leicester) for Cusack (48 mins), T Ojo (London Irish) for Varndell (64), S Cox (Sale Sharks) for Ryder (70), S Mackie (Newcastle) for Briggs, L Dickson (Newcastle) for Foden (both 73), S Whatling (Worcester) for Davis, R Thorpe (London Irish) for Hopley (both 76).


And on to this year's breed.

15 - Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
14 - Alexander O'Meara (Hartpury/Exiles)
13 - Tom Daly (Lansdowne/Leinster)
12 - Rory Scannell (Dolphin/Munster)
11 - Rory Scholes (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
10 - Steve Crosbie (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
9 - Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) (capt)
1 - Brian Scott (UCC/Munster)
2 - George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons/Exiles)
3 - Chris Taylor (Malone/Ulster)
4 - John Donnan (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
5 - Gavin Thornbury (UCD/Leinster)
6 - Peadar Timmins (UCD/Leinster)
7 - Ryan Murphy (Dolphin/Munster)
8 - Conor Joyce (Malone/Ulster)


16 - John Andrew (Ballymena/Ulster)
17 - Peter Dooley (Lansdowne/Leinster)
18 - Jake Caulfield (Malone/Ulster)
19 - Sean McCarthy (Shannon/Munster)
20 - Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)
21 - John Creighton (Malone/Ulster)
22 - Darren Sweetnam (UCC/Munster)
23 - David Panther (Corinthians/Connacht)

Olding, McGrath and van der Flier are the only players returning from last year suggesting that they have the best chance of making a career out of this. McGrath in particular looked a class apart last Friday, and there has been a lot of talk about him for a long time. I was also impressed with Crosbie, Scholes, Scannell and Daly in the back line and Conoy Joyce looked powerful at 8.

Olding has impressed me when he played at 10 for Ulster, but didn't get in the game enough for me last Friday, and van der Flier is returning from injury so didn't show what he could do. And to think that Henshaw could be in this side. Darren Sweetnam is meant to be highly regarded down in Munster, having turned his head from hurling.

Whatever happens, It seems that Ireland are making a great use out of the Under 20 side, with a lot of graduates going on to make good careers out of the game, especially in recent years. Why not tune in on Friday to see the next crop of Irish players?

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