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Ulster duo set to make debuts as Ireland U20s aim for perfect start

Big chance: Aaron Hall will start against the French
Big chance: Aaron Hall will start against the French

By Michael Sadlier

Ireland Under-20s get their Six Nations campaign under way tomorrow against France in Bordeaux (kick-off 8pm) with Ulster players Matty Dalton and Aaron Hall making their debuts.

The two 19-year-old Academy players make up two thirds of the Irish back-row - Dalton normally features at lock - and will pack down alongside fellow debutant Munsterman Jack O'Sullivan, who is at No.8.

In total, there are nine new caps in the side to take on the French.

Jonny Stewart is the only other Ulsterman in the starting side, and the scrum-half is the most experienced player in coach Noel McNamara's squad as the Queen's University ace will be winning his 11th cap, though the side is captained by UCD centre Tommy O'Brien.

There are three more players from Ulster in the squad with prop Tom O'Toole, who plays his club rugby with Banbridge, and backs Angus Curtis and Angus Kernohan, with Queen's University and Ballymena respectively, named on the Irish bench.

This brings the total Ulster-based contingent to six, with O'Toole and Kernohan - who have impressed for Ulster A in this season's British and Irish Cup - set to make their international bows if called upon at Stade Chaban-Delmas tomorrow evening.

Curtis - the son of former Ireland international David Curtis - has made one previous appearance for the Irish Under-20s.

"We've had a good build-up and it's an exciting time for the players as well as the coaching team," McNamara said.

"France is never an easy place to go and we're expecting a large and noisy crowd at the game, but it's a good challenge and everyone is looking forward to it."

Ireland Under-20s: M Silvester, P Sullivan, D McCarthy, T O'Brien (capt.), J McCarthy, H Byrne, J Stewart; J Duggan, R Kelleher, J Aungier, C Daly, J Dunne, M Dalton, A Hall, J O'Sullivan.

Replacements: D Barron, J French, T O'Toole, R Coffey, S Masterson, H O'Sullivan, A Curtis, A Kernohan.

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