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Five Irish U20s Who Showed They Can Make The Step Up To The Pros

Five Irish U20s Who Showed They Can Make The Step Up To The Pros
By Conor O'Leary Updated

The Under 20 Six Nations is in the books. We've had five games to assess how talented the latest crop of youngsters are, and we'll get to see more of them in the Junior World Rugby Championships in June.

But we should be able to project some of these players and how they will get on at the professional level. It is NFL draft season after all.

Below are five of the best prospects from Ireland U20 - one from each province. Note - everyone knows that James Ryan is fantastic - we've written about him a lot already, so we've given someone else a mention below.

Andrew Porter - Leinster

After Ryan, I'd argue that Porter was Ireland's best performer. I was a big fan of Porter's from his play with the U20s in last year's Junior World Cup, and while he didn't hit those heights in this tournament - there were flashes of what you can expect when Porter graduates to provincial level.

You saw his impact off the bench against Scotland, displaying his power both at scrum time and in the loose. He's one of the most talented looseheads around - which says a lot given the factory we seem to be producing.

Cillian Gallagher - Connacht

I went into this tournament thinking that Conan O'Donnell would be the best Connacht prospect on show. That hasn't necessarily changed, but Gallagher definitely outplayed his Summerhill teammate. Gallagher was montrous. Normally a second row, the underage prospect carried extremely well and followed in Ryan's footsteps with a fantastic work-rate. His path to a shot with Connacht is perhaps easier than the other impressive backrows on show - Will Connors and Max Deegan also impressed - but Gallagher will have another year at this level to improve even more.

Kelvin Brown - Munster

Despite having more representatives in the squad than in previous years - it wasn't a fantastic year for the Munster players. Scrumhalf Poland was dropped after the first two rounds, Daly had some moments mixed in with some less than stellar periods, but Brown was easily the pick of the lot.

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He didn't play much, but when he did he jumped out with his carrying. He'll have his work cut out to get gametime with CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony, Tommy O'Donnell, and Jack O'Donoghue - but Brown's versatility will count in his favour.

Brett Connon - Exile

I thought Connon was easily the most impressive back in an Ireland shirt. A playmaker in the mould of an Australian or New Zealander - Connon seemed to effortlessly drift in and out of the backline to spark some attack. It's not a coincidence that Ireland's play improved when Connon got more gametime.

His kicking was impressive too, but it was how Connon created as the first or second playmaker with McPhillips that stood out. The provinces will do well to try and sneak Connon away from Newcastle Flacons.

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Jacob Stockdale - Ulster

The best thing that could have happened to Stockdale was to miss out the early rounds of the championship playing with Ulster. Himself and Sammy Arnold boosted their reputation by not playing - and Ireland's backline improved when Stockdale entered the fray.

He's already playing with Ulster so it's not hard to project him there - but Adam McBurney and Johnny McPhillips didn't stand out. McPhillips will have another chance next year as he's underage.

See Also: Sky Sports' Dewi Morris Believes Ireland Have Found Their Next Paul O'Connell

See Also: The Next Wave Of Irish Rugby Talent And Eight Inevitable Comparisons

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