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Ireland can be proud of gritty performances: captain Ryan

Angus Kernohan
Angus Kernohan
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Ireland's Under-20s World Championship campaign comes to an end this evening as they take on New Zealand in the seventh place play-off (5pm kick-off, UK time).

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The Six Nations Grand Slam winners have been better than their standing suggests, beating England to start the competition before enduring a heart-breaking late loss against the same opposition last time out.

In between, they gave a good account of themselves against finalists Australia despite playing an hour with 14 men and handily disposed of Six Nations rivals Italy.

Indeed, regardless of today's result, this championship will represent Ireland's best finish in the tournament since Jacob Stockdale and co reached the final in 2016.

The Baby Blacks, however, are enduring their worst ever showing at this competition having lost out in the pool stages to South Africa and then falling to Wales in the fifth place semi-final on Wednesday evening.

As an injury-plagued campaign draws to a close, head coach Noel McNamara has made eight changes to his starting team, with wing Angus Kernohan the sole Ulster representative in the run-on side.

Having erased a 14-point deficit late on only to lose with the clock red against England in the game that consigned them to this play-off, Leinster lock Charlie Ryan, who again captains the side, believes the squad can be proud of their efforts out in Argentina, even if the rewards haven't come as readily as they did during February and March.

"It would have been easy for us just to tap out at 14 down," he said. "I'm really proud of the boys to come back. Unfortunately it didn't work out for us in the end. That happens in a game of rugby, but I'm proud of the performance.

"We'll go again and we've one more game to go at the weekend. 100% we can beat New Zealand."

In the day's biggest game, last year's winners France take on Australia with the title at stake (7.30pm kick-off).

• Ulster have announced that fly-half Johnny McPhillips has left the province and joined the Leicester Tigers.

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