While the senior Irish team starts its quest for the Six Nations trophy, a similarly important team in Irish rugby starts its quest to win the u20s version of the championship and follow in the footsteps of the 2007, 2010, 2019, and 2022 squads.
This is the perfect chance for these young athletes to showcase their skills on a worldwide scale and to the provincial coaches who are watching intently, given Irish rugby's emphasis on producing domestic talent. Jamie Osborne, Nathan Doak, and Alex Kendellen, for example, were showcasing their abilities just two seasons ago, and now they are starting to realise the promise they displayed when wearing an Ireland u20s jersey.
Coach Richie Murphy has assembled one of the most talented teams at this level, with three players—Conor O'Tighearnaigh, James McNabney, and Diarmuid Mangan—returning from the Grand Slam winning side from last year and four others with u20s experience from last June.
But which players in the 2023 squad should we be on the lookout for?
Ruadhán Quinn -Old Crescent/Munster
In a preseason friendly in August, this Munster backrower marked his debut for the senior team with a try. Ruadhán Quinn has most definitely seized his opportunity thanks to the Graham Rowntree approach of giving kids their chance. He became Munster's youngest ever professional debutant, and he has already earned two (of many!) caps. Keep an eye out for his ball carrying in the wide channels, as he will consistently outrun opponents.
74 | Ruadhan Quinn, making his first senior appearance, scores @Munsterrugby's third try
Crowley converts.#MUNvGLO 19-28
Watch the game here: https://t.co/zrGCKsnVw5@gloucesterrugby pic.twitter.com/p6hwnBiEha
— Irish Examiner Sport (@ExaminerSport) August 26, 2022
Ruadhan Quinn made a huge impact off the bench in the last five minutes. His two involvements here should have lead to a try. #SUAF pic.twitter.com/DImBqVlS79
— Three Red Kings (@threeredkings) October 3, 2022
Diarmuid Mangan - UCD/Leinster
This strong backrower, who was a part of the 2022 Grand Slam winning squad, has already caught the eye of Leinster senior coaches thanks to some outstanding displays for Ireland 20s and UCD in the AIL. A graduate of Newbridge College in Kildare, watch out for his no-nonsense defence and offloading techniques.
The best forward prospect in that side is Diarmuid Mangan who played lock and blindside for Leinster. He combines with his fellow forwards to score this great try. #LeinsterRugby pic.twitter.com/AW9FZSu8jN
— Leinster Rugby Gifs (@GifsLeinster) October 13, 2021
Evan O’Connell – UL Bohemians/Munster
Growing up seeing his uncle Paul play for Munster, Ireland, and the British & Irish Lions, it is no surprise to see this 6 ft 7 in Munsterman on his journey to becoming a lineout specialist second row. He has already been included in a Munster senior matchday squad, with the Castletroy and UL Bohemian player still only u19. While his game and physical abilities are still developing, it will be fantastic for his growth to see him get some U20s game time.
Sam Prendergast - Lansdowne/Leinster
A talented outhalf with the ability to compete at the highest level. Already a member of the Leinster Academy, his last-minute penalty kick to defeat England U20s during the summer from the halfway line demonstrated his big game temperament. His brother, who is a member of the current Six Nations squad, has already won one senior team cap (against Fiji). Don't count out the possibility of the two Prendergast brothers, like the Kearney and Wallace brothers, representing Ireland on the same day.
The winning moment! 🤩
A superb long-range kick from Sam Prendergast to edge a thrilling #U20SummerSeries showdown in Verona.#FutureIsGreen | @PwCIreland pic.twitter.com/wcieTmFevP
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) July 5, 2022
Sam Prendergast has had some tournament for the Irish U20s this Summer.
Love the combination of deception, strength and speed he shows here to beat so many defenders.#IrishRugby #U20SummerSeries pic.twitter.com/wikW226Z7A
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) July 12, 2022
Henry McErlean - Terenure/Leinster
It's time to sit up and take notice when Henry McErlean's director of rugby at St. Michael's College calls him one of their most exciting alumni. Henry has played for Terenure College in the AIL, and already appeared for Leinster A after only six months out of college. He is a talented, quick, and powerful full back who will create opportunities for his team.
Other Players To Watch
Fintan Gunne – A scrum half in the mould of Craig Casey. Lightening quick pass, with the game intelligence of Dupont. Back after a few injury issues, but one who can light up a game.
In the search for a top class young scrumhalf, Fintan Gunne is leinsters latest big prospect. Here he is scoring a great solo try for Leinster u19 last month. #LeinsterRugby pic.twitter.com/9f2s6N1tbD
— Leinster Rugby Gifs (@GifsLeinster) October 13, 2021
Jack Oliver – Will compete with Gunne for the scrum half jersey. Greg, Jack's father, represented Scotland in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.
Ike Anagu – A big and powerful La Rochelle winger. Few people will have seen him play here, but if his club coach Ronan O'Gara is praising him, he must be a guy with a lot of potential.
Hugh Cooney – Hard to stop centre with good feet in attack and an excellent defender.
Conor O’Tighearnaigh – Played in all 5 games of last year’s epic tournament win. He improves with every game and is a key member of the team.
Rugby can be a simple game at times.
Two strong carries from Conor O'Tighearnaigh and Reuben Crothers to narrow the Welsh defence, creating the space out wide for Chay Mullins to score his 2nd try.#U20SixNations #IREvWAL pic.twitter.com/83a4hDmKho
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) February 4, 2022