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The Success Of Ireland's U20 Is Going To Lead To An Awkward Problem In Irish Rugby

The Success Of Ireland's U20 Is Going To Lead To An Awkward Problem In Irish Rugby
By Conor O'Leary
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While it was unfortunate not to see the Ireland U20s seal the deal with a win over England, by far the most interesting thing is to see a glimpse of the future, and wonder what Irish players can go on to become international players.

And don't get me wrong, there are a lot of them. By my count there is at least seven definitive future pros, with another ten who have a big chance of succeeding.

But these players will need more than their immense talent. Some of Ireland's best players face a huge challenge just because of the vast production of players in recent years. Some of Ireland's stars find themselves at the back of a very long list of players ahead of them. Just look at the challenge these players face:

Andrew Porter

The next Cian Healy comes into Leinster's academy with quite a list of players ahead of him. Jack McGrath is playing at a Lions standard right now, and there are talented props like Jeremy Loughman, Peter Dooley, and Ed Byrne all ahead of him in their development. Not forgetting the experience of Michael Bent.

That's only to get some gametime at Leinster. James Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Denis Buckley, and Kyle McCall are all knocking on Schmidt's door for international recognition. Where did all of these props come from?

James Ryan

Leinster's signing of Ian Nagle never made sense to me. Yes, the former Munster second row is a big talent - but when you have Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs, Mick Kearney, Gavin Thornbury, and David O'Connor. Ryan is ready to play senior rugby now, but will he get time ahead of that list?

Max Deegan

If there's anything that Irish rugby does well, it's produce backrows. Listen to this potential Leinster backrow: Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier, and Jack Conan - three Irish internationals. That's Leinster's second choice behind Rhys Ruddock, Sean O'Brien, and Jamie Heaslip. That doesn't include Dan Leavy either who is set for a breakout year.


Deegan is the reigning World Rugby U20s player of the year though, it'll be hard not to give him time.

Stephen Kerins


Kerins was one of the players that boosted his pro chances more than most in this tournament. We knew about Porter, Ryan, and Deegan's ability already - but Kerins took another step.

The Connacht scrumhalf showed some talent, with a great pass and fiestiness. He'll need that fiestiness to try and get some gametime at Connacht. Somehow Connacht have found themselves with four other talented scrumhalves - all under 26. John Cooney is the oldest in the squad at 26, with Kieran Marmion still only 24. Caolin Blade is immensely talented and is pushing for gametime.


Don't sleep on Conor Lowndes either, who is ahead of Kerins in the academy. He was on the fringes of the 20s last year, having switched positions the previous year.

Jacob Stockdale

What is in the waters up north? How many talented backs are coming out of Ulster? There's already no place for Craig Gilroy, and Rory Scholes has had to take his services to Edinburgh - so what is Jacob Stockdale going to do.

If we think that Payne is now a fullback only, then there's Charles Piutau, Payne, Gilroy, Bowe, Trimble, Ludik, Peter Nelson, Jack Owens, Rob Lyttle, and David Busby back three options ahead of Stockdale. And if we believe that Stockdale wants to play in his preferred position of outside centre - then he's got Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Payne, Piutau, Olding, or McCloskey to compete with.


He's good enough, and he already has PRO12 experience. But Ulster have been forced to say goodbye to Scholes already.

Kelvin Browne

He was mainly a sub for the Ireland U20s, but what an impact sub he was. Everytime Browne came on he made a difference.

But if there's one position that Munster don't need it's a blindside flanker/ no.8. Between CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony, Jack O'Donoghue, Dave O'Callaghan, and Robin Copeland ahead of Browne.


The one thing about Foley that was good was how he gave youngsters a chance. We don't know if Rasmus will do the same, especially with the pressure that Munster are sure to be under after a poor season.

The real victory for this year's group of Ireland U20s is whether we still know who they are by 2020.

See Also: Defeated U20s Will Form The Backbone Of Ireland's 2023 World Cup Squad On Home Soil

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