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What The Ireland U20s Must Do To Get Back To Winning Ways

What The Ireland U20s Must Do To Get Back To Winning Ways
By Brett Igoe Updated

The open round of the U20s Summer Series saw big wins for South Africa, France, Wales and Italy. Sadly Ireland U20s - sponsored by PwC Ireland - lost their 2022 unbeaten record to a scintillating France 42-21, where Ireland struggled early in the game to deal with the pace of the French attack.

Due to the absence of several key players from Ireland's Six Nations grand slam success this year, this competition offers a chance to observe how other players can develop in the intense environment of international competition.

Coach Richie Murphy would have been disappointed by the outcome, but he will also know that this team will evolve as the series progresses. The team's differences from March were evident as they lacked the cohesive dynamic in attack they had earlier in the year. If they are to return to winning ways this week, they will need to get back to their highly paced game.

Areas where the Ireland U20s need to improve:

What the Stats said

Unfortunately Ireland made too many handling errors, some of which came after line breaks. Lorcan McLoughlin made a wonderful line break into the French 22m in the first few minutes, but as he attempted to find another green jersey, he found a French one, which allowed France to clear their lines with a 50:22 kick.

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Ireland will look to be more clinical when they get in behind the opposition's defence line and at this level they will have to add points to the scoreboard from their line-breaks.

The coaching staff continue to encourage the players to play out of the tackle and this team looked more comfortable with this style as the game wore on. Ireland’s opening attack of the second half produced some great rugby as they started to play to space with great pace.

Ireland U20s struggled in the 1st half at scrum time and these two scrum penalties gave France points early in the game. The scrum problems were sorted out as the game continued but the damage was done early on.

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One of the highlights of the Grand Slam was this team's high quality breakdown work. Unfortunately on Friday night some newer players needed to adjust to the pace and level of international rugby and the split second faster you need to be. This will certainly improve with time together as a group and players adjusting to the new pace of their game.

Stats source: SixNations.com

The Defence

Too often the French put Ireland on the backfoot early in their attack. Ireland were very passive in their first phase defence and were then on the backfoot for the next few phases. Ireland tended to stand off France and wait for them and France did not need a second invitation as they took advantage when offered. This will be a major adjustment for the team this week, and hopefully see significant improvements in the next game.

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The wide channel defence for Ireland was not as strong as it had been earlier in the season. The spacing between the centres and back three players was taken advantage of by France. A two-v-two situation was turned into a highly skilful try by France in the 19th minute, but they were helped by some careless defence.

The players and coaches will be disappointed by the outcome, but there were some reasons to be hopeful. Ireland looked excellent when their attack picked up speed through faster rucks, attacking between defenders, or by creating space.

When they picked up the pace they began to cause problems for France, and their attack shape improved. France had defence issues early because they allowed O'Grady and King to get the ball. Improvements in the team's attack were also noted after Prendergast was added to the 10 position in the second half.

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The number of opportunities for these players to play at this level is now beginning to decrease, therefore those who want to play professional rugby need to make the most of the playing time they have left in their U20s career to demonstrate their ability to grow and excel at international rugby and beyond.

Ireland’s next game v the South Africa U-20s is on Wednesday, 29th June at 7pm Irish time.

It can be watched on the Six Nations U20s YouTube channel. You can also follow the liveblog on Balls.ie.

See Also: Crothers Bemoans Slow Start As Ireland U20s Look To South Africa Game

24 June 2022; Reuben Crothers of Ireland in action against Émilien Gailleton of France during the Six Nations U20 summer series match between Ireland and France at Payanini Centre in Verona, Italy. Photo by Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

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