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Ireland's rising stars still have grand plans

There was a lot to admire in the manner in which Ireland Under20s dug in to snatch victory in Scotland last week but amongst the players and the coaches there is a stark realisation that major improvements are needed if they're going to challenge for the Six Nations title.

Confidence levels are high amongst the squad as they look to maintain their unbeaten start when they take on an Italian side who came unstuck against Wales last week.

The U-20s age grade is a steep learning curve and behind the scenes this week, the coaches haven't been shy in letting players know what is expected of them.

A lot of talk has been centred around Ireland's pack and although they aren't as big as they were last year, forwards coach Peter Malone isn't looking to use that as an excuse.

Nevertheless, Ireland struggled up front against Scotland and Malone insisted: "We said we'd do a lot of things which we didn't do.

"Our lineout stats were very poor for what we felt was a strong lineout.

"For me, that was the most disappointing," added the forwards coach.

For all the improvements demanded of Ireland this evening, they go into the game with Grand Slam hopes still intact, and that isn't likely to have changed when they leave Italy tomorrow morning.

Ireland U-20: C Hogan; J Larmour, G Mullin, C Frawley, C Nash; J McPhillips, J Stewart; J Conway, T McElroy, C Connolly; F Wycherley, O Dowling; C Gallagher, P Boyle, C Doris. Reps: A Moloney, R Mulvihill, M Burke, R Regan, G Coombes, J Lyons, C Fitzgerald, T O'Brien.

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