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O'Connell's young stars out to seize big chance to get back on track


Crucial: Paul O'Connell knows a win tonight is a must
Crucial: Paul O'Connell knows a win tonight is a must

By Cian Tracey

Scotland stunned a much-fancied England a fortnight ago to highlight how difficult the task is for the Ireland U20s when they welcome their Celtic cousins to Donnybrook this evening.

Two defeats in three games was not part of either team's plan but, as it is, Ireland and Scotland come into the clash having won just one game each.

As attentions slowly begin to turn towards June's Junior World Cup, Noel McNamara has handed several players an opportunity to stake their claim.

The head coach will be looking for a big performance from his out-half Harry Byrne, who has shown glimpses of his undoubted potential without really setting the competition alight.

Inconsistency has been Ireland's biggest problem throughout the campaign.

"I think we've probably had lapses in concentration and lapses defensively," forwards coach Paul O'Connell admitted.

"I think we play really good rugby and we're capable of scoring tries, we just have to stop being so capable of conceding them as well.

"We've conceded on maul a few times which is pretty disappointing and we've failed to score off a maul as well which is disappointing.

"I don't think focusing on putting in an 80-minute performance makes you any better, you've got to focus on the little fixes that led you to conceding in games like we did."

For all of their defensive errors, Ireland have shown plenty in attack.

A tough test awaits but given what is to come in England next weekend, and later in the World Cup, they don't come any easier from here on in.

Securing a win would help restore Ireland's confidence for the long road ahead.

IRELAND U20s: M Silvester; A Kernohan, T O'Brien (capt), A Curtis, M Keane; H Byrne, H O'Sullivan; J French, R Kelleher, T O'Toole; M Dalton, J Dunne; J Dunleavy, M Agnew, J O'Sullivan.

Reps: AN Other, J Duggan, J Aungier, C Ryan, R Foley, J Stewart, C Dean, J Hume.

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