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20th Jun 2021

Four Ireland U20 stars that massively impressed in opening Six Nations win

Patrick McCarry

Ireland U20

“It was just good to get back out playing a level of rugby again.”

It has been a long time coming, but Ireland U20s are back in competitive action again. They are back winning again and, with a new crop, making folks sit up and take notice.

Richie Murphy is the new man in charge, having taken over from Noel McNamara after his successful run of it. The lack of serious competition for the U20s mean several of the latest crop have had less media and fan exposure.

Saturday afternoon’s game against Scotland – in their 2021 Six Nations opener – represented the first proper chance many Irish supporters had to get a look at many of the players on show. That word ‘show’ is appropriate as Murphy’s side put one on in the second half, after putting themselves in a strong position at the break.

Their 31-7 win over their hosts sees Ireland top the table after one round of games. Here are the four players that stood out, at Cardiff Arms Park, for us:

Sam Illo

Sam Illo of Ireland is challenged by Max Williamson of Scotland. (Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile)

The Wesley College graduate is highly rated within the Leinster underage set-up, and you can clearly see why. Possesses such natural power and showed that for his first half try. Made 27 metres off his seven carries, beat two defenders on those carries and stuck every tackle he attempted. Concession of two penalties were the only blotch on the tighthead’s copybook.

Alex Kendellen

A product Presentations Brothers College in Cork, the Munster back-row was the best forward on display in Cardiff. A robust performance but his in-game nous was evident too. Cool under pressure. Helped himself to a try, too, won a crucial turnover, captained well and made 85 metres off 15 carries.

Shane Jennings

The numbers Jennings put up on Saturday were impressive – 89 metres off only seven carries, with five defenders beaten. The Buccaneers centre, who played schools rugby with Garbally College, scored the try of the match in the second half, much to the petulant frustration of Scotland winger Michael Gray:

Credit: U20 Six Nations (via YouTube)

Jennings almost topped it, soon after, only to have it chalked off by a knock-on. The 20-year-old possesses serious, serious wheels.

Cathal Forde

Connacht fans will be getting extremely excited about seeing Forde and his Connacht teammate Jennings causing carnage in the Ireland midfield. Early days yet, of course, but the province have two crackers on their hands. Forde made a staggering 127 metres off 13 carries, beat four defenders, stuck all 12 of his tackle attempts and chipped in with a try assist too.



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