The Leinster U18 Clubs and Schools teams will play in a newly formatted U18 Rugby Festival starting this weekend at the University of Limerick.

The weeklong festival will kick-off this Saturday with the U18 Schools facing IQ Rugby (Exiles) and the U18 Clubs taking on Connacht in their first game in this year’s Interprovincial Championship.

The Leinster Clubs will enter into the Interprovincial Series confident in the knowledge that they have had a solid preparation for the three-match test of stamina and organisation over 10 days at the University of Limerick.

“The major benefit is the fact that it is the first step towards the same format as the U20 World Cup,” stated Team Manager Robbie Mullen.

“It gives the consistency for elite young athletes to play tournament rugby. Until now, players can suffer from not being used to the intensity of playing three or more games in a short space of time.

“At Under-18s, you are giving the players that experience to know what it is like.”

Of course, this is the beginning of the process that aims to produce Leinster professionals and Ireland internationals for the U20s and, ultimately, the Rugby World Cup.

The coaches and players are excited to embark on what is a first real glimpse into proper tournament rugby and a glimpse into professionalism where the focus will be on preparation, play and recovery.

To this point, coach Joe Carbery has learned a lot from the losses to Leinster Schools (21-15) at Lakeland’s Park last Friday and to Northampton U19s (54-24) at Energia Park last Monday. The latter was a free-flowing exercise in which defence appeared to be optional.

“We struggled physically at times against Northampton,” reflected Mullen.

“We showed we could cause trouble when we kept the ball, scoring some nice tries. When we didn’t do that, kicked the ball loosely or made mistakes, we got punished. The review confirmed that we need to improve our defence, make the first-up tackles, get into the right mindset.”

Over the course of those matches, flanker Mark Boyle, brother to Ireland U20 Paul, has been an impressive figure in the back row alongside the groundhog skills of out-and-out openside Rob Murphy.

Captain David Murphy is looked to for leadership from number eight and the centre pair of Ireland U18 Karl Martin and Josh O’Connor is a source of thrust through the midfield.

Leinster will look no further than their opening game against Connacht at 11am on Saturday morning.

The Western Province demand the height of respect in this particular competition.

“This is their number one team. They don’t play in the Schools Interprovincials. They can combine their schools and clubs and that usually makes them strong opposition. In recent years, Connacht have moved to an attacking brand of rugby. You can see that with their seniors and it happens right down the grades.”

“We know our attack is good enough to cause problems. We have to make those improvements in defence. We have to get up, apply pressure, make those hits. We can’t let them have time and space with the ball.”

Leinster have used Lakeland’s and Energia Park for their 4G surfaces which should have them well accustomed to a similar pitch at UL.

Leinster Under 18 Clubs Squad:

Backs (11): Ben Jones (MU Barnhall RFC), Cormac Fenton (Wicklow RFC), David Manning, Fionn O’Hara (both Mullingar RFC), Jamie Osbourne (Naas RFC), Josh O’Connor (Wexford RFC), Karl Martin (Boyne RFC), Niall Hilliard (MU Barnhall RFC), Ryan Foley (Athy RFC), Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC), Will Reilly (Portlaoise RFC).

Forwards (15): David Murphy (Blackrock College RFC, Capt), Cathal Purcell (Dundalk RFC), Diarmuid Brannock (Cill Dara RFC), Finn Tierney (Wanderders FC), Jack Hanley (MU Barnhall RFC), Jordan Finney (Navan RFC), Mark Boyle (Gorey RFC), Michael Hand (Birr RFC), Patrick Kiernan (Greystones RFC), Phillip Byrne (Tullow RFC), Rob Murphy (Gorey RFC), Ryan Doyle (MU Barnhall RFC), Sean Kelly-Komolafe (Wexford RFC), Temilolhwa Adewunmi-Lasisi (Enniscorthy RFC), James Reilly (Ardee RFC).

Under 18 Clubs Interprovincial Championship Fixtures

Matchday 1

Saturday, 18th August

Leinster U18 Clubs v Connacht U18 Clubs, KO 11am

Munster U18 Clubs v Ulster U18 Clubs, KO 3pm

Matchday 2

Wednesday, 22nd August

Leinster U18 Clubs v Ulster U18 Clubs, KO 1pm.

Munster U18 Clubs v Connacht U18 Clubs, KO 3pm.

Matchday 3

Sunday, 26th August

Connacht U18 Clubs v Ulster U18 Clubs, KO 1pm

Munster U18 Clubs v Leinster U18 Clubs, KO 5pm