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Analysis: Plenty Of Learnings For Ireland U20s In Valiant And Frustrating Draw With England

Analysis: Plenty Of Learnings For Ireland U20s In Valiant And Frustrating Draw With England
By Brett Igoe Updated
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Last Saturday's electrifying kick-off of the U20s World Cup in Cape Town marked a thrilling, albeit frustrating start for Richie Murphy's U20s Irish team - who are sponsored by PwC. In a rollercoaster battle against England U20s, the match finished in an enthralling 34-34 draw. Despite the pulsating energy on a soggy field, the young Irish men were left with an undeniable sense of disappointment, knowing they were mere minutes away from an inspiring win to open their tournament.

Holding a comforting 10-point lead and boasting six excellent tries with just 12 minutes left on the clock, it looked as if the Irish team were on the brink of another outstanding win over England in 2023. However, an unexpected twist in the tale saw them fighting tooth and nail to eke out a draw in the crucial final two minutes. This sharp change in the narrative served as a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining consistency throughout each minute of the match.

Despite showing patches of brilliance and ingenuity, the Irish team struggled with maintaining their usual high standards. An unusual dip in Sam Prendergast's performance saw him miss key kicks, something uncommon in his game. As a team, they struggled with gaining good field positioning and possession in their half, combined with missing key tackles which could have otherwise been pivotal.

Nevertheless, their usual valiant spirit was on full display. With 14 men on the field during the final few minutes of the match, they held their ground when many teams would have buckled under the pressure.

England's defensive strategy proved to be a tough nut to crack for Ireland. The English team successfully leveraged their physical strength to consistently pressure the Irish ruck. This challenge was further amplified by some debatable decisions from the French referee, which seemed to play into England's hands.

Ireland U20s: innovation is key

Yet, in the face of adversity, the Irish rugby team's spirit of innovation remained undeterred. They displayed tactical brilliance in 22m attack/tap penalty plays, particularly during the cleverly executed second try by George Hadden. This moment served as a testament to the team's ability to think on their feet and innovate under pressure.

While the Irish defence displayed commendable grit and determination, some critical tackles were unfortunately missed. These slips permitted England to score their first try, which would undoubtedly have left the Irish team disappointed.ย 

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However, their spirit remained unbroken, as evidenced by the bonus point try. This showcase of tactical intelligence, where Fintan Gunne executed an outstanding kick pass to Ruadhรกn Quinn while a player short, was brilliant and one for the pre-match homework done on the opposition.ย 

Yet another challenge emerged during scrum time, where the Irish team found it difficult to combat England's formidable front row, leading to a regrettable penalty try. This area of vulnerability won't go unnoticed by Australia in their upcoming match.

During the U20s Six Nations, Irelandโ€™s lineout was one of the best in the tournament, However, in a crucial moment, it let them down, causing a lost lineout in their 22m zone against England.

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Contrarily, their maul strategy proved to be a silver lining. It proved phenomenally effective and allowed them to secure a considerable edge over England, leading to two tries in the second half.

With the team presently holding the second spot in the table, Ireland U20s are now set to face Australia, who opened their campaign with a solid 46-37 win over Fiji.

The prospect of taking on this Australian defence, will excite this Ireland team and expect another high-scoring game.ย 

However, they'll need to ramp up their tackling skills, especially in the wider channels. Australia will be looking to seize every opportunity to push through Ireland's defence. In preparation for the match, Australia has made 10 changes to their line-up, while Ireland is set to bring back the highly rated No. 8 Brian Gleeson. James Nicholson, Ronan Foxe, and Charlie Irvine will also be joining the starting line-up, adding fresh energy to the team.

Thursday's match promises a high-octane clash, kicking off at 11 am local time (10 am Irish time). As this enthralling tournament continues, Irish rugby fans get to see the players of the future.

SEE ALSO: The 2016 Ireland U20s Team That Made The WC Final - Where Are The Now?

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