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More to come from Under-20s in quest for history, says Malone

By Cian Tracey

Long after the dust has settled and the bright lights of the Principality Stadium have been dimmed, four hours north of Cardiff, the Ireland U20s will look to take another step towards a first Grand Slam.

Should Ireland leave Colwyn Bay this evening (6.30pm) with victory, it would set up a mouthwatering final-day showdown with England in Dublin on St Patrick's Day.

There has been an added excitement in the squad this week but that is being tempered by the fact that a strong Welsh side lie in their way.

Ireland's win over France last time out was far from flawless but it was nevertheless a major statement of their intent.

The pack laid down a marker early and with the fit-again Bill Johnston pulling the strings from out-half, Tommy O'Brien and Jordan Larmour thrived in the open space.

However, the Colwyn Bay surface is a far cry from the slick 4G pitch in Donnybrook and that will present some challenges for Nigel Carolan's youngsters.

Confidence is high, and Ireland have that winning habit. Yet there is a sense that this is a grounded squad and no one is getting ahead of themselves.

"We've got a bit of momentum," assistant coach Peter Malone observed. "I don't think we'd be jumping up and down with our performances against Scotland and Italy but in saying that we went away from home and scraped a win.

"It's gaining momentum but I think this is going to be our biggest challenge, away from home against Wales who have gone pretty well bar that England game.

"I think we haven't seen the best of us. You're always waiting for the best and sometimes it never comes but along the way you've got to keep doing everything you can do.

"Is there more? Yes I think there's more but I think there needs to be because if we perform the way we did in the first two games, I don't think we'll hold a candle to Wales or England. Hopefully there's another big step up against Wales."

The return of Jack Kelly will add another dimension to an already potent Ireland backline. Larmour has been one of the standout players in the Six Nations and he has the ability to cause plenty of problems.

If they improve again this evening, Ireland should remain on course for a shot at history next week.

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