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McPhillips is eager to pass on his knowledge as the U20s aim high

By Cian Tracey

Much like his Ireland U20s team last year, as time went on, Johnny McPhillips began to find his feet in a position that he hadn't played in all that often prior to the Six Nations.

With Bill Johnston missing the tournament, Nigel Carolan was forced to shuffle his pack as he handed the No.10 jersey to Ulsterman McPhillips.

A former England U18 ace, McPhillips made the move across the water a few years ago. His mother hails from Waterford while his father grew up in Belfast. Now back for a second year, there is a renewed confidence about McPhillips' demeanour and that's not to mention the considerable bulk that he has added to his frame.

Fit-again Johnston trained with Munster this week and is due to link up with the Irish U20s so McPhillips understands the importance of hitting the ground running, from a personal and collective point of view.

Defeats to Wales and France in their opening two games last season left Ireland on the back foot and although they managed to win their remaining three, a win in Scotland this evening is imperative for the confidence levels of this year's crop.

"There is a feeling of a little bit of responsibility," said McPhillips, one of two players in the starting XV back from last year.

"Those players last year and the year before made the transition easy for us new boys because they had been there and done that. I will try to do that as much as I can with the new players, whether it's the detail or preparation or whatever."

McPhillips spent five seasons training with Newcastle United before rugby. Playing mainly from full-back, he had two British and Irish Cup games under his belt at out-half when Carolan asked him to pull the strings.

"It was all very new to me," he admitted. "Maybe I wasn't as confident as I was going into the World Cup. I did a lot of work on my goal-kicking. Once your confidence is there to back yourself then everything comes easier."

Ireland U20: J Kelly (capt); J Larmour, G Mullin, C Frawley, C Hogan; J McPhillips, J Stewart; J Conway, T McElroy, P Cooper; F Wycherley, O Dowling; C Gallagher, P Boyle, C Doris. Reps: A Moloney, R Mulvihill, C Connolly, J Regan, M Rea, J Lyons, C Fitzgerald, T O'Brien.

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