Five Ulster players have been selected for Ireland U20s starting side with four of them due to make their debuts in Friday night’s Six Nations opener against Wales at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay (kick-off 7.10pm).
Stuart Olding, who normally plays out-half for Belfast Harlequins and featured last season for the Irish U20s, has been picked by head coach Mike Ruddock at full-back, while his club colleague Rory Scholes wins his first cap in the rather more familiar position on the wing.
Up front in the pack, Malone’s hard-running flanker Conor Joyce — who has skippered Ireland at U19 level — is picked to play number eight along with club-mate Chris Taylor who is at tight-head prop and they also start for the first time along with Ballynahinch second row John Donnan.
Three Ulster players also feature on the bench with Malone providing scrum-half replacement John Creighton and prop Jake Caulfield while Ballymena’s John Andrew is the cover at hooker and all will also make their debuts should they be called into the action.
The side is skippered by UCD scrum-half Luke McGrath who, along with Olding, is the only other member of the starting line up to have played in last season’s squad.
Ireland U20s: S Olding, A O’Meara, T Daly, R Scannell, R Scholes, S Crosbie, L McGrath; B Scott, G McGuigan, C Taylor, J Donnan, G Thornbury, P Timmins, R Murphy C Joyce. Subs: J Andrew, P Dooley, J Caulfield, S McCarthy, J Van Der Flier, J Creighton, D Sweetnam, D Panther.
l THE Ireland Women’s team to play Wales in their opening game of the RBS 6 Nations includes just one Ulster player in the starting line-up, although there are three more on the bench.
Outside-centre Grace Davitt is the province’s sole starter, lining out alongside Leinster’s Jenny Murphy in what is a new midfield partnership.
Stacey-Lee Kennedy, Amy Davis and Ashleigh Baxter are the three hoping to see action as the match unfolds at Aberavon on Sunday afternoon (1.30pm).
Ireland women: Niamh Briggs; Niamh Kavanagh, Grace Davitt, Jenny Murphy, Alison Miller; Lynne Cantwell, Lariss Muldoon ; Fiona Coghlan, Gillian Bourke , Ailis Egan ; Sophie Spence; Marie Louise Reilly; Laura Guest, Claire Molloy, Joy Neville. Replacements: Stacey-Lee Kennedy, Fiona Hayes, Lauren Day, Heather O’Brien, Siobhan Fleming, Amy Davis, Nora Stapleton, Ashleigh Baxter.