Preview: Age grade sides get ready for clashes with Ulster
September 3, 2021 3:54 pm Site Editor
This weekend, Leinster Rugby will go head-to-head with Ulster Rugby at each of the U-19, U-18 Clubs and U-18 Schools levels.
Ulster Rugby U-19 v Leinster Rugby U-19 (KO 1pm, Saturday, 4 September, Newforge)
The Leinster Rugby U-19s expect to be pushed to the limit by Ulster in the U-19 Interprovincial Series at Newforge on Saturday afternoon.
Andy Wood’s young men got more than they bargained for from Connacht in the second of a three-leg series, getting by 21-19 last Sunday.
In fairness, the coach did opt for a significant rotation of players from the 27-7 first-round win over Munster, perhaps leading to a patchy enough performance.
No doubt, Wood is putting out the strongest collective available at this point in what is expected to be a serious examination of their character and cohesion.
In that regard, Wood has made seven changes in personnel and a number of positional switches.
There are two solid, interchangeable front rows to draw on for what is bound to be the biggest physical test yet in what will be Leinster’s first time on the road.
With this in mind, props George Hadden and Ronan Foxe return to the front row, while Jim Peters fits into the second row.
This has prompted the reshuffle of Daniel Leane to blindside, perhaps to add greater size as compensation for losing the scavenging attributes of openside Liam Molony.
Peters’ lock partner Diarmuid Mangan carries a big reputation from his days at Newbridge College.
The aggressive second row was as good as advertised against Connacht and back-rowers Dan Carroll and Molony were prominent in the loose too.
In the back division, scrum half Fintan Gunne returns to team-up with captain Sam Prendergast at half-back.
Centre David Dooley and wings Jed Tormey and Luka Hassett complete the set of seven in what is a much changed three-quarter line, Noah Sheridan moving from wing to full-back.
The northern province showed enough resolve in trumping a dangerous Connacht (22-19), relying on heavy lifting from forwards like lineout leaper Charlie Irvine, captain Paddy Brown and dangerman James McNabney at No 8.
Leinster would have noted how vulnerable Ulster were when Connacht moved the ball into the wide channels.
Out-half Prendergast will have to make it his priority to bring the outside backs into the game early and often, weather permitting of course.
This can only happen if there is a solid platform up-front at the lineout and in the scrum with which to launch those strike runners.
Leinster Rugby U-19 Team v Ulster:
15. Noah Sheridan (Wicklow RFC)
14. Luka Hassett (St Michael’s College)
13. Hugh Cooney (Blackrock College)
12. David Dooley (MU Barnhall RFC)
11. Jed Tormey (Belvedere College)
10. Sam Prendergast (Newbridge College) CAPTAIN
9. Fintan Gunne (St Michael’s College)
1. George Hadden (Gorey RFC)
2. Gus McCarthy (Blackrock College)
3. Ronan Foxe (Tullamore RFC)
4. Jim Peters (Portlaoise RFC)
5. Diarmuid Mangan (Newbridge College)
6. Daniel Leane (St Mary’s College)
7. Dan Carroll (St Michael’s College)
8. Matthew Victory (St Michael’s College)
16. Tom Barry (Gonzaga College)
17. Adam Duffy (Dundalk RFC)
18. Patrick McCarthy (Blackrock College)
19. James Doyle (Enniscorthy RFC)
20. Josh O’Hare (Dundalk RFC)
21. Oscar Cawley (Naas RFC)
22. Matthew Lynch (Terenure College)
23. Darragh Gilbourne (St Mary’s College)
Ulster Rugby U-18 Clubs v Leinster Rugby U-18 Clubs (KO 3pm, Saturday, 4 September, Newforge)
There is nothing like a final-day match between two unbeaten provinces to whet the appetite as Leinster Rugby tackle their Ulster counterparts for the right to become the U-18 Clubs Interprovincial champions at Newforge on Saturday afternoon.
There is a positive outlook on the injury concerns around Leinster No 8 Grant Palmer and prop Adam Deay ahead of the final match.
Leinster had to overcome the body blows of losing their Tullow tighthead after just three minutes and the Wexford Wanderers back-rower just before half-time against Connacht last week.
They have both made significant progress to be ready to put their shoulders to the wheel in County Armagh.
The physicality both players bring was obvious, even from Deay’s very short cameo last Sunday, in what turned into a tight affair (24-17) against the western province.
It came on the heels of a 12-8 come from behind win over Munster in horrible weather conditions the week before.
Leinster have shown distinct signs of improvement and they will have to take another step forward to complete the sweep.
“This will be a different kind of test. It will be the first time the boys will be out of Energia Park,” said Leinster team manager Patsy Gorman.
“Last weekend, we lost a few players early on and it turned into a real test for us. I suppose, we learned that the boys on the bench are well able to step up to the mark when they are called on.
“We will probably need that strength in depth to cope with Ulster, who have also won their two matches.”
There was plenty of intensity and energy around the camp at training on Wednesday, ahead of the captain’s run on Friday.
Ulster continue making strides in the age-grade system and this is reflected in how they have taken care of Connacht (34-24) and Munster (17-14) this season.
Full-back Ethan Graham and out-half Ben Gibson are their star turns in attack, each grabbing a brace of spectacular tries in the opening round against Connacht.
At times, Ulster struggled to have their way up-front in the previous rounds. It is there Connacht targeted them on the fringes.
Leinster will have to be precise in their execution to win on the road.
Leinster Rugby U-18 Clubs v Ulster U-18 Clubs:
15. David Donohue (Lansdowne FC)
14. Aidan Henry (Athy RFC)
13. Charlie Sheridan (Naas RFC)
12. Senan Phelan (St Mary’s College RFC)
11. Tom Hodgkinson (Wicklow RFC)
10. Tom Larke (Old Wesley RFC)
9. Andrew Doyle (Athy RFC)
1. Oisin Lynch (Boyne RFC)
2. Niall O’Hanlon (Athy RFC)
3. Adam Deay (Tullow RFC)
4. James O’Loughlin (Naas RFC) CAPTAIN
5. Eoin Clarke (Cill Dara RFC)
6. Niklas Moelders (Wicklow RFC)
7. Donagh McCarrick (Coolmine RFC)
8. Grant Palmer (Wexford Wanderers RFC)
16. Sean Tipper (Naas RFC)
17. Jamie Rafferty (Dundalk RFC)
18. Keith Farrell (MU Barnhall RFC)
19. Darragh Mathews (Clontarf FC)
20. Anrai Poole (Suttonians RFC)
21. Jack Nolan (Lansdowne FC)
22. Ethan Travers (Naas RFC)
23. Páidí Farrell (Tullamore RFC)
Ulster Rugby U-18 Schools v Leinster Rugby U-18 Schools (KO 5pm, Saturday, 4 September, Newforge)
It is a new season with a whole new set of rules to work through as the Schools Interprovincial Series kicks-off for Leinster Rugby U-18 Schools at Newforge on Saturday evening.
The Covid regulations have turned preparations upside down for coach Andy Skehan, going into his fourth year in the role.
“It is like going into my first year all over again because it is completely different because of Covid,” he said.
“You have to adapt, look at doing new things, as Fianna Fail would say ‘do more with less’, examine opportunities for the players to progress that you traditionally wouldn’t.”
Blackrock College provides the backbone of the team, their six starters divided equally between backs and forwards, with full-back Ruben Moloney, centre Luke Kritzinger and scrum half Oliver Coffey in the backs in behind Michael Colreavy and Alex Mullan in the second row and flanker Ingo Cruise-O’Brien.
This thread of familiarity is important given how the captain’s run on Friday marked just the 20th session since the initial 48-man squad came together in the first week in July, comparing unfavourably to the 36 sessions they would have in a normal pre-season.
Since the beginning, the squad has been trimmed down to 40, then 32 and, now, to the 23-man squad which will be without the injured lock Mikey O’Reilly and flanker Jim White for the campaign.
Interestingly, both Leinster’s centres were born in South Africa, Luke Kitzinger carrying the threat of bulk and Wilhelm de Klerk the ball-playing option.
So far, these Blues have had two pre-competition hit-outs, with Moloney, Coffey and wing Hugo McLaughlin taking the eye out the back and Roscrea’s Richard Whelan one to watch in the back row.
Ulster have been making solid progress in the last five years in the age-grade categories and this edition of their Schools squad is reportedly very impressive.
“I have watched Ulster play twice. I think they are a strong side, particularly up-front, well worth their victory over Munster,” noted Skehan.
Despite the fact Ulster needed a late try from flanker Josh Stevens to outgun Munster 22-15 last week, the general impression was that it was a well-deserved victory.
Hooker Jake Bowden, No 8 Flynn Longstaff and centres Matthew Booth and Ryan Stewart are just some of the names that have been noted.
As always, Leinster have to balance development against performance and winning, something they have managed to do very well over the years.
They will have to be on their game to make a winning start.
Leinster Rugby U-18 Schools v Ulster U-18 Schools:
15. Ruben Moloney (Blackrock College)
14. Jules Fenelon (St Michael’s College)
13. Luke Kritzinger (Blackrock College)
12. Wilhelm De Klerk (St Michael’s College)
11. Hugo McLaughlin (Gonzaga College)
10. Jack Murphy (Presentation College Bray)
9. Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College)
1. Tom Stewart (St Michael’s College)
2. Flyn Pyper (Presentation College Bray)
3. Andrew Sparrow (St Mary’s College)
4. Michael Colreavy (Blackrock College)
5. Alex Mullan (Blackrock College)
6. Stephen Smith (Kilkenny College) CAPTAIN
7. Inigo Cruise O’Brien (Blackrock College)
8. Richard Whelan (Cistercian College Roscrea)
16. Lucas Maguire (Catholic University School)
17. Karl Brennan (Belvedere College)
18. Ben Howard (St Michael’s College)
19. Alan Spicer (Belvedere College)
20. Tom Brigg (Blackrock College)
21. Tadgh Brophy (Newbridge College)
22. Sean Naughton (Kilkenny College)
23. David Colbert (Gonzaga College)