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Vital Learnings The Ireland U20s Must Take From South Africa Defeat

Vital Learnings The Ireland U20s Must Take From South Africa Defeat
Brett Igoe
By Brett Igoe
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A physical stronger South African squad defeated Ireland 33-24 in Round 2 of the U20s Summer Series, which also saw England get their first victory of the series. Irish Rugby must be exposed to South African teams at an early age with South African teams are now directly very much part of the rugby landscape in Ireland.

Unfortunately, Ireland, like previous Irish teams, struggled against South Africa's massive forwards as they bullied their way to a bonus point in just 35 minutes. But Ireland's second half comeback deserves special recognition because they adjusted to the task and played some fantastic attacking rugby, scoring three tries and returning to the style of rugby we've seen from this team in the Six Nations.

Here a few vital areas they need to improve before they face England this Tuesday 5th July in Italy.

What the stats said

Ireland had trouble gaining any momentum in the opening period. Ireland struggled to acclimatise to the pace at which South Africa got poachers on the ball and missed clear-outs on some large South African forwards for a variety of reasons. Only 18% of Ireland's ruck balls were longer than three seconds, giving South Africa time to organise their defence and apply heavy line speed pressure to the ensuing phase.


Ireland lost 6 rucks, while South Africa stole 5 balls at the breakdown.

Ireland got some excellent field position in the first half and spent more time within the 22m line of South Africa, but they had trouble scoring from this position. While the squad has done well over the past year with the direct approach in this zone, they will need to find a clever strategy to score against much stronger physical sides.

While the official match statistics indicate that South Africa and Ireland each won 8 lineouts, they don't fully capture the tail of this battle. The French referee’s definition of a straight throw baffled the players and spectators alike. He consistently penalised the throwing team for making crooked throws. It was difficult to find agreement with his choices after reviewing the game.


Players and coaches will become frustrated by the excessive number of handling errors. While playing in Italy at this time of year in the blazing heat may have something to do with it, the fundamental factor must be that these players haven't had much experience playing together. Support players frequently overran their lines and passers struggled to find them.

Stats source: sixnations.com

Individual performances

Patrick Campbell (Munster) being back at full back was wonderful. This dynamic player consistently demonstrates that he have all the necessary skills to advance and play at a higher level. He appears to be in a very relaxed positionally and is eager to demonstrate his counter attack abilities. In order to help him develop, let's hope he gets a few URC opportunities in the upcoming months.


While Conor O'Tighearnaigh has been the Ireland U20s most reliable player this season, rarely having a bad game, it was his second row teammate Diarmuid Mangan who stood out. Throughout his 80 minutes on the field, he toiled diligently. He topped the charts in both ball carrying with 11 and tackles with 9, making him Ireland's top tackler. He appeared to be capable of taking on the entire South African pack by himself in the first half. Mangan will greatly benefit from this series as he seeks to impress the Academy staff who are observing by showcasing his abilities.

Sam Prendergast, the young out-half, has a certain something. Sam was displaying some extremely deft talents while his older brother was hurling a few Maori players around in New Zealand. He is still only 19, but he already possesses a keen eye and the abilities to go along with his excellent decision-making. It was fantastic to see his vision and grubber kick for Dylan O'Grady's try. Sam will advance in this series, and perhaps, he'll push himself further to establish himself as a regular at the Six Nations in the upcoming season.

A six day turnaround and a game against England is the next task for this team. If they can match replicate their 2nd half performance against England there is no reason why this team can’t get their first win in this Series and avoid a wooden spoon last day match against the bottom team in Pool B.


Ireland’s next game v England U20s is on Tuesday, 5th July, (7pm Irish time)

It can be watched on the Six Nations Under-20s YouTube channel.

SEE ALSO: A Sloppy Ireland U20s Are Defeated By Baby Boks In Italy



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