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Under-20s eye Grand Slam joy

By Cian Tracey

Two years ago, the majority of the current Ireland Under-20s team were losing 17-0 at half-time to Wales, before a stunning revival saw them turn things around and win 19-17.

After that Under-18 game, Noel McNamara gathered his players and said: "Boys, you will win an Under-20s Six Nations."

These things tend to come full circle, so perhaps it is fitting that Ireland return to Wales this evening as 2019 Six Nations champions and chasing just a second Grand Slam in the country's history at this level.

"That could have gone either way," McNamara smiled as he recalled that fateful day. "I mentioned it to them at the start of the year and the only one who remembered was Liam Turner."

The Ireland Under-20s have never won in Colwyn Bay, but that statistic won't come into the equation for this fearless group, who have already shown plenty of heart and skill to see off quality England and France teams.

Wales have endured a hit and miss campaign, winning two and losing two, whereas Ireland have seen off all-comers thus far.

They have one more hurdle left to jump as they look to emulate the 2007 Grand Slam-winning team, which included the likes of Keith Earls, Cian Healy and Felix Jones.

"The thing for us was we weren't afraid of it," McNamara added. "It was never a banned word. It was never something that wasn't spoken about. History is watching and this is an opportunity for them to write another little chapter and set the bar a little bit higher for next year's team."

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