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Irish U20s aiming to get back on track with win

By Michael Sadlier

With the 33-9 thumping Ireland U20s shipped against England at Franklin's Gardens last time out effectively doing terminal damage to their title hopes, Mike Ruddock's squad will be gunning to just get that winning feeling back again tonight when they host their Italian counterparts at Dubarry Park, Athlone (kick-off 7.05pm).

And coming off two straight defeats – the England debacle was preceded by a disappointing 16-0 loss to Wales at Dubarry Park – Ruddock will have emphasised to the squad just how important it is for his fourth-placed side to pick up another two points ahead of their final game in France.

Two reversals without a try scored, and coming after they opened the Six Nations with a victory over a dire Scotland, does not really amount to an awful lot and then losing skipper and flanker Dan Leavy for the remainder of the tournament will have been another blow as Ireland prepare to do battle with an Italian side who, though they too beat Scotland, have already been tanked by Wales and France and are in fifth spot.

The return of number eight Jack O'Donoghue should give Ireland important presence – Belfast Harlequin Jack Taggart now finds himself on the bench leaving David Busby as Ulster's sole representative in the starting side – and though they drew with Italy last year, Ruddock really should get the response he requires.

"The result against England did not reflect the effort and endeavour shown," Ruddock said.

"We must take our chances and although we did well to draw with Italy last year we would be confident that we can get the result."

Meanwhile struggling Ballynahinch host second-placed Old Belvedere in a rescheduled AIL 1A clash tomorrow.

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