• Home
  • /
  • Rugby
  • /
  • 6 Irish U20s Who Could Play PRO12 Rugby Next Season

6 Irish U20s Who Could Play PRO12 Rugby Next Season

6 Irish U20s Who Could Play PRO12 Rugby Next Season
By Conor O'Leary
Share this article

At the end of a disappointing campaign for the Ireland U20s, attention should turn to how many of these players will be able to make the step up into professional ranks.

Some will get the chance to leap into the senior ranks immediately, while others will have used the U20s as a springboard into the academy.

The Irish provinces are quite slow to trust young players in the senior team, and that seemed most evident with the new meritocracy-based qualification into the European rugby competitions. That said however, there will be many opportunities for the youngsters to get a taste of Pro 12 rugby while the internationals are away for the Rugby World Cup.

Some players are included on this list because of opportunity, and some extremely talented players (like Garry Ringrose, Ciaran Gaffney and Jeremy Loughman), are excluded because of a logjam of players ahead of them who will still be there during the World Cup.

Here are six players who might have such an opportunity:

Rory Moloney (Connacht)

Moloney is exactly the type of player that Connacht should be excited about. Last season, Jake Heenan and Willie Faloon were the only natural openside flankers in the squad. When both went down injured, Eoghan Masterson was given the seven jersey, but Masterson is better suited to No. 8, or blindside. Faloon has since departed for Ulster, and while Lam has brought in Auckland's Nepia Matamua Fox, the emergence of Moloney would be a big boost.


Moloney has two years of U20 rugby behind him as well as two years in the Connacht academy. He was one of Ireland's leaders in this campaign, and with Heenan still an injury risk, Moloney should see time with the first team, even if it's just against Enisei STM in the Challenge Cup.

Lorcan Dow (Ulster)

It was an unusually quiet championships for Dow after shining in the Six Nations, but the Ulster's no. 8 has a bright future ahead of him. After the retirement of Stephen Ferris, Ulster are crying out for another big bollocking backrower, and with their NIQ spots all used up such that Charles Piutau can't join until June 2016 then there is an opportunity for Dow to step up to the plate. Expect him to replace Nick Williams when Williams' contract runs out in a year, but Dow will feature next season for sure.

Ross Byrne (Leinster)


Outside of Johnny Sexton and Ian Madigan, Leinster's only other players who have played outhalf on their books are inside centres Noel Reid and Stevie Crosbie, returning legend Isa Nacewa and former St. Michael's college pair Cathal Marsh and Byrne. When Madigan and Sexton are away at the World Cup, and Reid, Crosbie and Nacewa better suited elsewhere, much will be asked of Marsh and Byrne to guide Leinster through the new coaches tenure.

Byrne is an outhalf in the mould of Sexton. He plays the game in the right way, and won't be afraid to step up when needed. I wouldn't be surprised to see him included even when the internationals return.

Sam Arnold (Ulster)

Just how good is Sam Arnold? Well put it this way, despite the presence of Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding and Stuart McCloskey ahead of him in his favoured inside centre position in Ulster, and the use of Darren Cave in the 12 jersey from time to time, Arnold is already capped in the Pro 12 despite still being eligible for the Ireland U19's.

Arnold is the rare combination of size, power and subtlety that has been missing from the Irish game, and if he keeps his head down and keeps trying is sure to have a successful career.


If he's played Pro 12 already, you'd have to fancy his chances of getting a few more caps this season.

Stephen Fitzgerald (Munster)

Munster's back three may be crowded with Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Ronan O'Mahony, Andrew Conway and Gerhard van den Heever, but I still wouldn't be surprised to see Fitzgerald included in Pro 12 games. He's been involved in Munster training since before he left school, and already featured for the senior team in pre-season friendlies and an 18-year-old.


Foley rates him highly, and after his showing this year for the U20s, if Earls, Jones and Zebo manage to convince Schmidt that they are better than the likes of Trimble, Fitzgerald and Gilroy then there will be huge temptation for Foley to draft the youngster into his 23 at least.

Nick McCarthy (Leinster)

Much like with Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy has a big chance ahead of him. It looks plausible that both Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss will be on international duty until November, and when Leinster let John Cooney sign for Connacht, that left Luke McGrath as the only senior scrumhalf, and McCarthy as the only academy scrumhalf left in Leinster.


He's obviously highly-rated as a two-year starter for the U20s, captaining them this year, and with Leinster missing out on Peter Stringer and failing to sign a third scrumhalf, the signs look like McCarthy will be on the bench to McGrath.

Join The Monday Club Have a tip or something brilliant you wanted to share on? We're looking for loyal Balls readers free-to-join members club where top tipsters can win prizes and Balls merchandise

Processing your request...

You are subscribed now!

Share this article

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com