| 11.9°C Belfast

Ireland's dreams of back-to-back Grand Slams dashed as U20 Six Nations fixtures scrapped


David McCann leads Ireland U20s out for their 39-21 victory in England earlier this year.

David McCann leads Ireland U20s out for their 39-21 victory in England earlier this year.

©INPHO/James Crombie

David McCann leads Ireland U20s out for their 39-21 victory in England earlier this year.

Ireland's dreams of winning back-to-back U-20 Six Nations Grand Slams have been dashed after their remaining two games of this year's competition were cancelled.

Ireland had been due to host Italy before travelling to face France last March before rugby was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. There had been hope that the two games would be rescheduled alongside Ireland's senior fixtures in October, but today it was confirmed that the games will not be played and no championship awarded in 2020.

This will come as a particular blow to Noel McNamara's side, who had recorded three impressive wins from three against Scotland, Wales and England and needed just one victory from their remaining two games to clinch the trophy.

Two wins from two would have seen Ireland replicate the 2019 team by winning a Grand Slam.

There were seven Ulster players in the squad, as captain David McCann was joined by Tom Stewart, Lewis Finlay, Conor McKee, Hayden Hyde, Ben Moxham and Ethan McIlroy.

Also in the squad was Campbell College's 2018 Schools' Cup winning captain John McKee, who now represents Leinster.

In a statement the Six Nations said:

"Due to season scheduling constraints, it was decided that the three outstanding matches would not be played and there would be no winner for the 2020 Championship."

For Andy Farrell's men, it has been confirmed that they will face Italy at the Aviva Stadium on October 24, with a kick-off time to be confirmed. The following weekend, on October 31, the Six Nations will conclude with a Super Saturday.

Wales will host Scotland at 14.15, England will face Italy at the Stadio Olympico at 16.45 before Ireland take on France in Paris at 20.00.

"In rescheduling these matches, the health and safety of players, associated staff and supporters has been at the forefront of our thinking," the Six Nations said.

"We remain in close contact with all relevant authorities across the respective jurisdictions to ensure these matches take place in a safe environment and we will announce further details of health and safety protocols and guidance on spectator attendance in due course.

There was good news for the women's team, however, as there remaining games will be played in October. Adam Griggs' side will host Italy on October 24/25 before facing France away from home on the weekend of October 31/November 1.

The tournament organisers also confirmed the eight-team autumn tournament that is set to feature the Six Nations sides and two other international teams.

"In recent weeks, Six Nations has also been progressing contingency plans for an alternative tournament format in place of the Autumn Internationals for 2020, primarily driven by travel restrictions not allowing many international teams to play the scheduled matches. This tournament will be a unique eight-team competition, involving the Six Nations unions and two other international teams. We are currently finalising match schedules, operational details including venues as well as commercial arrangements. Further announcements relating to this competition are expected to be made later this month."