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Ireland U20s Midterm Report: Individual Brilliance, Tremendous Teamwork, Savvy Strategy

Ireland U20s Midterm Report: Individual Brilliance, Tremendous Teamwork, Savvy Strategy
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The class of 2023 for the Ireland U20s - who are sponsored by PwC - have three wins in a row as they try to follow in the footsteps of the 2022 group and complete their own Grand Slam. Irish player development is still one of the most impressive around, as seen by victories over Wales, France, and Italy. Under the exceptional leadership of Richie Murphy and his coaching staff, this squad, captained by hooker Gus McCarthy, has played some outstanding rugby. Although flyhalf Sam Prendergast has attracted attention with his three-man-of-the-match performances, this has been a tremendous team effort.

We examine their first three performances to determine why Ireland is currently ahead of the other five teams and why they will face England on the last day of the championship for a shot at the Grand Slam.

Stats Alert

Ireland top the Points race having scored a massive 121 points in their 3 games. 

Ireland’s placekicking has been excellent, with Sam Prendergast leading the charts with 11 Conversions and 9 penalty kicks. 



In terms of ball carries and offloads, Ireland is at the top of the rankings as well. The ball carrying skills of players like Diarmuid Mangan, James McNabney, and Ruadhan Quinn are one of the team's strengths. It's amazing to witness how quickly they can adapt and gain huge ground. Before backs like Hugh Cooney and Henry McErlean have a chance to attack in the wider channels, the team gains a significant advantage as a result.


This season, Ireland's lineout attack has been outstanding. Their first try against Italy came from a lineout five metres out, and although Italy was anticipating an Irish maul, Ireland chose to switch to a back peel and use Brian Gleeson's strength to muscle his way over from that distance. An outstanding play by the forward unit with the throw, catch, lift, pass, and timing detail of the highest standard. When Gleeson is on the ball, he has been really impressive.


This Irish team's ability to penetrate opposition defences is one of its strengths. They continually test the defence with a barrage of close runners and return play runners in an effort to hold the defence and suck them in.


The ball presentation and clear out of these forward runners are of the highest quality, and they are impressive at gaining yards in the contact area.

When it is time to move the ball wider, the outside backs signal to Prendergast when they believe the defence has become too narrow. In the final moments of the match against Italy, Rory Telfer's try was a great example that demonstrated how dominant this Irish side is in terms of fitness, technique, and thinking.


This week, the Ireland u20s train alongside the senior squad at the IRFU headquarters. Finding a solution for their maul defence will be one of the main tasks. Ireland has now given up six maul tries; perhaps a brainstorming session with Paul O'Connell and James Ryan could come up with a different strategy. Before playing England in Cork on the last day of the competition, they will need to have this in place.

The width of the defence will also be a worry, as Ireland occasionally appeared to be too narrow in broader channels. While it was better against Italy, there is certainly room for improvement. 



Any rugby fan should enjoy seeing this team play. They play a fantastic brand of rugby, and if this is what the future of Irish rugby holds, things are going to get very exciting. Their ball-handling talents are the highlight. They constantly look to add passes, and while their decisions and execution aren't always perfect, they do want to be successful. They don't die with the ball like teams in the past. 

You know you are doing something right when the legendary Sonny Bill Williams praises your social media offloading abilities.

This team has succeeded in every test they have been given so far in the championship. Their next assignment is a difficult away game against Scotland, which if accomplished will leave them with a winner-takes-all game against England on the last day. 

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