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U20 Championship: Ulster quartet benched as Ireland shape up for South Africa

By Niall Crozier

Ireland’s Under 20s team for tonight’s IRB Junior World Championship clash with South Africa in Treviso (7.10) shows five changes to the side beaten 33-25 by England in Friday’s series opener.

The quintet omitted from the starting line-up includes four Ulster players — lock Iain Henderson, flanker Dominic Gallagher, fly-half Paddy Jackson and centre Luke Marshall.

All four start on the bench for what is a must-win group stage match — and even victory would be no guarantee of a place in the semi-finals which now looks a very long shot.

Dungannon half-back Jackson’s place goes to fellow-Ulsterman James McKinney whose performance after taking over as a 55th minute replacement against England has persuaded coach Mike Ruddock to persist with the Queen’s University undergraduate.

McKinney kicked three penalties when he entered the fray on Friday evening, Jackson earlier having landed a hat-trick of goals as well as converting Andrew Conway’s first-half try.

Marshall can consider himself somewhat unlucky to have been left out of the starting 15. His place in the centre has gone to Munster’s JJ Hanrahan who will partner Leinster’s Brendan Macken.

Craig Gilroy, who gave an excellent account of himself as an attacking player on Friday night when he lined out at full-back, switches to the left wing for this evening’s showdown against the junior Springboks, with Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran taking over at 15.

All of that translates as only three of Friday’s seven backs having been retained in the positions they occupied against England. Conway, Macken and scrum-half Kieran Marmion are the survivors, with Gilroy also included again, but in a different role.

Friday night’s pack featured a trio of Ulster players. Tonight there will be just one, hooker and captain Niall Annett.

Explaining his thinking Ruddock said: “We have looked closely at South Africa and they present another massive challenge. Typically they are a big and very physical side. Combine that with a four day turnaround and it is important that we introduce some freshness into our team.”

Ireland Under-20s: T O’Halloran (Connacht); A Conway (Leinster), B Macken (Leinster), JJ Hanrahan (Munster), C Gilroy (Ulster); J McKinney (Ulster), K Marmion (Exile); J Tracy (Leinster), N Annett (Ulster, captain), T Furlong (Leinster); M Kearney (Leinster), D Qualter (Connacht); J Murphy (Leinster), A Connelly (Connacht), E McKeon (Connacht). Replacements: D Doyle (Leinster), C Carey (Ulster), I Henderson (Ulster), D Gallagher (Ulster), P Du Toit (Leinster), PJackson (Ulster), L Marshall (Ulster).

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