Belfast Telegraph

Punishing schedule forces nine changes

UNDER-21 WORLD CUP

COACH Mark McDermott has made nine changes to the Ireland Under-21 side for tomorrow's U-21 World Championship clash with Georgia.

COACH Mark McDermott has made nine changes to the Ireland Under-21 side for tomorrow's U-21 World Championship clash with Georgia.

A tiring schedule of two games played over five days in heavy heat has meant McDermott has chopped and changed for Ireland's final pool stage fixture of the tournament in France.

The Irish are currently ranked ninth of the 12 nations, but a win over the Georgians, with a bonus point, could see them gain entry to the 5th-8th place range for the final week's play-offs.

That seems increasingly possible as Georgia are bottom of the table, having lost to Wales and South Africa and conceded a whopping 175 points.

Ireland, for their part, will be hoping to bounce back after losing a tight game to Argentina (26-22) which they should have won. The Irish changes in the backs see Belfast Harlequins starlet Darren Cave, who is the youngest member of the travelling squad, replace Tom Gleeson at outside centre and Jonathan Sexton of St Mary's College and UCC's Duncan Williams come in for Kieran Hallett and the injured Paul Marshall (hand) at half-back.

There are six alterations up front. In the front row, the trio of Darragh Hurley, Sean Cronin and Dave Ryan have made way for Michael Diffley of Buccaneers, Belfast Harlequins hooker Stuart Philpott - the team captain - and Paul Doran Jones of Dublin University.

Gloucester's Daniel Tuohy is preferred to Devin Toner in the second row, and UCC duo Michael Essex and Billy Holland come in for David Pollock and Sean O'Brien in the back row. Diarmuid Laffan switches from blindside to openside flanker. Essex replaced the injured Ross Noonan in the squad earlier this week.

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