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Ireland U20s Taking Inspiration From Senior Team Ahead Of Grand Slam Decider

Ireland U20s Taking Inspiration From Senior Team Ahead Of Grand Slam Decider
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It's a massive weekend for Irish rugby, with not only the senior team but also the Ireland U20s going for a Six Nations Grand Slam.

The U20s team will unusually have to wait until Sunday for their shot at glory, with a sold-out Musgrave Park awaiting the visit of England, after the senior team have their decider on Saturday evening in Dublin.

Speaking to Balls and the Irish media on Friday, captain Gus McCarthy and scrum-half Fintan Gunne said that the Ireland U20s are feeling confident ahead of their own date with destiny.

Ireland U20s in buoyant mood ahead of Grand Slam decider

The Ireland U20s have put together a massive Grand Slam charge for the second straight year, and face a huge clash with England this Sunday which will decide the fate of this year's trophy.

Scrum-coach Aaron Dundon, however, says Ireland will be treating this game like any other, ensuring that their preparation is not impacted by the excitement surrounding the camp:

It's just business as usual. Richie has been good, obviously he's been in this position before. Everything's the same, the same way we prepare for every game - making sure we do the same amount of days training, we're not gonna do anything extra or outside the normal, you know. Just keep everythign the same. It's been working for us!

We just have to go out and win the game and put on another performance. It's making sure you perform on the day and take care of yourself.

We had our first session today starting to look at England. We had the boys in the group and they got into little groups and talked about the challenges and what this week holds. They talk about obviously external pressures and that sort of stuff, and how we can combat that.

They're pretty motivated, pretty fresh - and buzzing.

France are also in the mix for this year's crown, with Ireland on 19 points and four wins, ahead of the English and French on 15 points and three wins each.


Aaron Dundon Leinster

3 October 2022; Elite player development officer Aaron Dundon during a Leinster rugby squad training session at UCD in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Before the U20s team get to have their shot at a Grand Slam, however, the senior team will look to achieve the same in their D-Day clash with England at the Aviva Stadium. Dundon says that the U20s camp will not travel to Dublin to watch the game - bar Johnny Sexton's brother Mark - and will instead cheer on the team from afar:


It's a big weekend. Not just for us and the 20s group, but obviously the seniors as well.

We're gonna stay down here and watch the senior match together. I think Mark Sexton is the only one going back up - obviously he wants to be at his brother's last Six Nations game. So he's gonna go back up. The rest of us are gonna stay here and watch it together.

The U20s squad have taken inspiration from the senior side ahead of this weekend's double-bill, with scrumhalf Fintan Gunne saying that a recent open training match against the senior team was an important learning experience.


Fintan Gunne

10 March 2023; Fintan Gunne of Ireland during the U20 Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Scotland and Ireland at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Gunne also recently took part in a senior training session with Leinster, and praised Luke McGrath for his encouragement and advice:


I look up to Jamison Gibson-Park, he's playing very well for Ireland. I look up to him as well and bring in stuff that he does in his game.

I got to train with the seniors just before I was injured. That was class experience - getting to see the pace that they play at, even in the open training session in the Aviva, I just love how he plays.

I did the travelling reserve with Leinster as well a couple of weeks ago, we went over to Edinbrugh. It was actually the three St. Michael's 9s, me, Lukey, and Nick McCarthy.

I was getting a good few insights off them and Luke McGrath was very giving with his time.

Captain Gus McCarthy said that he was looking forward to watching the senior game on Saturday, despite the unusual scenario of playing after the senior game has taken place.

McCarthy may have also been casting an eye to the RDS on Friday afternoon, as his alma mater Blackrock went for the Senior Cup title against Gonzaga. McCarthy captained the school to last year's title, and said he had leant on that experience when approaching his leadership of the Ireland U20s:

That is definitely the sort of experience that gave me confidence and helped me to guide the lads towards the end goal.

I think it will help me to stay calm - although it's not the same, it's similar [to the Senior Cup final].

Growing up I was always looking up to the Senior Cup team...I was always fixated on the RDS on Paddy's Day. That was such a lifetime goal of mine to win the cup and to be captain was extra special. Whereas the Six Nations - though obviously the last few years I've been watchiing it - I wasn't looking forward to that my whole life.

As soon as I got the chance to get into the 20s camp and stuff, that hasb een a huge goal of mine. We set out at the start of this year and to captain them has been extra special.

Ireland's U20s could conceivably win the championship with a draw in Sunday's game - but McCarthy assured the Irish media this week that they have no interest in settling for that means of winning the championship, saying that the team believes they are good enough to win the Grand Slam and want to go at it full tilt:

We're not really focusing on the draw - we're focusing on going for this Grand Slam, it's a huge opportunity. We're not looking to go for a draw and still win the championship, we really are going for the Grand Slam.

I think we're good enough if we perform as well as we believe we can.

The potential for two Irish Grand Slams to be won on the same weekend would be a dream come true for fans, and captain Gus McCarthy has set out the stall for the U20s to make their own history in Cork on Sunday.

SEE ALSO: How Ireland Lost The Red Carpet And The 2003 Grand Slam, As Told By The Players Themselves

Mary McAleese Martin Johnson

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