Injuries bite hard on Noel McNamara's side
Ireland head coach Noel McNamara has been forced into naming five debutants in his side for tomorrow's final Pool B game with Italy at the World Rugby U20 Championship.
Those five debuts are among eight changes made to the side that were beaten 45-17 by Australia last time out. One of Ireland's try-scorers that day - Ulster centre Stewart Moore - has been forced to return home with a shoulder injury. Joining him on the plane is Munster back row John Hodnett, who sustained a knee injury. Joining the squad and thrown immediately among the replacements are Luke Clohessy (son of Peter), and David Ryan.
Hodnett is replaced at number-8 by Ulster's Azur Allison, who the back row with provincial team-mate David McCann and debutant Ciaran Booth. Ronan Watters misses out as he's following the return-to-play protocols after sustaining a head injury in the first half to the defeat to the Wallabies.
Thomas Ahern makes his first start in the second row alongside Ryan Baird. And there's major surgery done to the front row, with John McKee and Michael Milne in for Dylan Tierney-Martin and Thomas Clarkson.
Jake Flannery will start at full-back in Santa Fe tomorrow, with Rob Russell switching to the left-wing, with Ben Healy introduced at out-half. Healy forms an all new half-back pairing with Connacht scrum-half Colm Reilly.
The team will be captained for the first time by outside-centre Liam Turner, who takes over from Charlie Ryan.
Despite the defeat to Australia, Ireland still have a hope of making the semi-finals - although it has narrowed considerably. Ireland need a bonus point win over the Azzurrini, but even that might not be enough. With a current points difference of -12, Ireland are at a massive disadvantage to both New Zealand in Pool C (+51), and Argentina (+22) in Pool A. A big win for South Africa over the Baby Blacks is required, along with France beating the hosts, Argentina. An Argentina win would only be beneficial to Ireland if it withers France's points difference (+35) down to a catchable figure.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's game, McNamara says, "Italy are a very good side and they showed that against England on Saturday (in a narrow 24-23 defeat). They have been consistently competitive at this tournament over the last number of years.
"The players are excited about the opportunity to get back out to play, and the focus is entirely on delivering a performance."
Ireland U20 team to play Italy:
15. Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
14. Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
13. Liam Turner (Dublin University/Leinster) (capt)
12. Cormac Foley (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
11. Rob Russell (Dublin University/Leinster)
10. Ben Healy (Garryowen/Munster)
9. Colm Reilly (Buccaneers/Connacht)
1. Josh Wycherley (Young Munster/Munster)
2. John McKee (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
3. Michael Milne (UCD/Leinster)
4. Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster) *
5. Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
6. David McCann (Banbridge/Ulster)
7. Ciaran Booth (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby)
8. Azur Allison (Ballymena/Ulster)
16. Declan Adamson (Clontarf/Leinster)
17. Thomas Clarkson (Dublin University/Leinster)
18. Charlie Ward (Clontarf/Leinster)
19. Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht)
20. Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
21. Niall Murray (Buccaneers/Connacht)
22. Luke Clohessy (Shannon/Munster) *
24. Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
25. Jonathan Wren (Cork Constitution/Munster)
26. David Ryan (UCD/Leinster) *
27. Aaron O’Sullivan (UCD/Leinster) *
28. Max O’Reilly (Dublin University/Leinster) *
* Denotes uncapped player at this level