Ulster quartet given chance to help Irish U20s to World glory
The preparations have been far from ideal but confidence is nevertheless high among the Ireland U20s squad as they gear up for their opening World Cup game against Italy in Georgia on May 31.
Four Ulster players figure - Peter Cooper, Marcus Rea, Angus Curtis and Jonny Stewart - but Johnny McPhillips misses out through injury.
Nigel Carolan's commitments with Connacht means that he has left his post with the U20s and interim head coach Peter Malone has had to deal with several important injury absentees.
Malone has named six uncapped players in his 28-man squad, including Curtis, son of former Ireland ace David Curtis.
Wexford native Paul Boyle takes over as captain, with Jack Kelly continuing his return from a shoulder injury.
"I got the call yesterday when I was driving back to Dublin," a proud Boyle said. "I had a buddy in the car beside me. I had to pull over fast, because it was a surprise. I was delighted to get it and the lads that have captained the team so far have experience and they'll be able to help me along the way."
Malone has to plan without Cillian Gallagher, Rob Lyttle (both shoulder), Bill Johnston (broken leg), Jordan Larmour (ankle), McPhillips (groin) and Tommy O'Brien (hamstring).
The current U20s have been boosted by seeing three of last year's crop - James Ryan, Andrew Porter and Jacob Stockdale - included in the Ireland senior squad for next month's tour.
Malone worked closely with the trio and said: "We always felt those three had great potential to play international rugby. The fact it happened so quickly and they are in that touring squad is great."
Ireland squad, Forwards: P Boyle (capt), C Connolly, J Conway, G Coombes, P Cooper, C Doris, O Dowling, J Duggan*, J Foley, R Kelleher, S Masterson, T McElroy, G McGrath, M Rea, J Regan, F Wycherley.
Backs: A Curtis*, C Dean*, C Frawley, C Hogan, J Kelly, D McCarthy*, G Mullin, C Nash, J Stafford, J Stewart, M Sylvester*, A Tynan*.
* denotes uncapped player at this level.