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Four Irish Backs To Watch At The U20 Rugby World Cup In Argentina

Four Irish Backs To Watch At The U20 Rugby World Cup In Argentina

The U20 Rugby World Cup gives fans around the world to have a look at the stars of the future and hype them up for the senior tournament which kicks off in Japan later this year.

Ireland struggled at last year’s edition in France, losing their first four games before beating Japan in a relegation playoff to claim 11th place out of the 12 teams in attendance.

But 2019 has already seen a turn of fortunes for the boys in green, with Noel McNamara’s side winning all five of their Six Nations ties earlier this year to claim just Ireland’s second Grand Slam at U20 level.

Injuries to key players like centre and captain David Hawkshaw, starting outhalf Harry Byrne and Leinster flanker Scott Penny have reduced Ireland’s options but there are still talented players throughout the squad.

Last week we brought you the four forwards to watch at this year’s tournament so now it is the turn of the backs.

Here are four players we’re excited to see when Ireland kick off their U20 Rugby World Cup campaign against England tonight.

Craig Casey - Scrumhalf

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Craig Casey will play at the U20 Rugby World Cup this summer

In the modern game, a team is only as good as its halfbacks and in Munster scrumhalf Craig Casey, Ireland have a real talent feeding their backs at this year’s U20 Rugby World Cup.

The Ardscoil Rís alum is just 5ft 5in in stature but he stands tall on the pitch, directing his forwards with the authority of someone much older than his 20 years.

Named the Munster academy player of the year this season, Casey will serve as the Irish vice-captain in Argentina this summer - a just reward for his part in helping Ireland wrap up the Grand Slam earlier in the year.

The 20-year-old has already made his senior debut for Munster and was targeted by Leinster for a transfer after a string of impressive performances in the Six Nations, but he turned them down to sign a new development contract with his home province.

Despite his size, Casey does not shy away from the physicality of the game and is set to be a key figure for Ireland this summer.

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Jake Flannery - Outhalf and Fullback

Jake Flannery will play at the U20 Rugby World Cup this summer

With starting outhalf Harry Byrne and another potential option for the position in David Hawkshaw both injured for this summer’s U20 Rugby World Cup, the issue of who would fill the number ten shirt was always going to be a huge decision for the Irish coaching staff to make.

Ben Healy filled the role for the final two games of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning campaign earlier this year following an injury to Byrne but in truth Noel McNamara’s team looked far more fluid when Jake Flannery stepped in at first receiver.

The Munster man served as a fullback for much of the tournament but resembled the New Zealand model of 15 more than what we are used to in the northern hemisphere, stepping into the line as a second playmaker throughout the spring.

It was not a difficult transition for Flannery to make, as he usually lines out at outhalf for Shannon but his versatility makes him a dangerous asset this summer.

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Flannery is an exciting prospect not just for his physical gifts but for his intelligence too, with the Tipperary youngster earning maximum points in his Leaving Cert last year.

Ireland will need him firing on all cylinders from the start as they kick off the tournament against England on Tuesday night.

Liam Turner - Centre

Liam Turner will play at the U20 Rugby World Cup this summer

A Leinsterman and Blackrock graduate in the number 13 shirt will inevitably face comparisons to Brian O’Driscoll and Garry Ringrose but Liam Turner is eager to carve out a name for himself at this year’s U20 Rugby World Cup.

The 19-year-old was impressive during the Six Nations campaign earlier this year, scoring a man of the match award for his performance against Scotland but he faces a new challenge this summer.

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With his regular centre partner and U20 captain David Hawkshaw out for the tournament, Turner must make himself a senior figure in this group of players.

His new partner on Tuesday night, Stewart Moore, has yet to be capped at U20 level and will need guidance from the more experienced Turner, especially in defence where Turner has excelled so far at international level.

Thankfully the Leinster Schools Senior Cup-winning captain is no stranger to positions of leadership and will be hoping to continue his winning ways in Argentina.

Angus Kernohan - Wing

Angus Kernohan will play at the U20 Rugby World Cup this summer

With 16 appearances for Ulster this season, Angus Kernohan is undoubtedly the most experienced of this Irish U20 squad at senior level.

The 20-year-old is part of a crop of exciting young Ulster backs which has seen the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Robert Baloucoune and Rob Lyttle progress through to the first team in recent years.

A hamstring tear suffered against Leinster at the beginning of the year saw Kernohan miss the first two games of Ireland’s Grand Slam but he was returned to the starting XV for the final three games, scoring in the final game against Wales.

The Ulster winger heads into this summer’s U20 Rugby World Cup healthy and ready to fire. His past experiences at centre mean he is comfortable coming infield to hunt for a touch of the ball so expect to see him deployed in a number of different ways by Noel McNamara’s side.

At 5ft 11in he’s not the largest winger in the world - nor is he the fastest - but Kernohan does have a knack for picking a dangerous line and with Munster’s Jonathan Wren on the other wing, Ireland have two potent finishers on either end of the line.

Read More: How To Watch Ireland At The U20 Rugby World Cup

Kevin Beirne

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