McNamara encourages Ireland to dictate terms
Noel McNamara has challenged his Ireland U20s side to play the game on their own terms when they host England at Musgrave Park on Friday.
The Irish enter this Six Nations opener in Cork as rank outsiders, having recorded just two wins from five in last year’s competition.
Friday night’s sides endured contrasting fortunes at the 2018 World Championship in France: English were runners-up while Ireland were placed 11th. Yet despite such statistics, McNamara is operating off a relatively clean slate for 2019.
“It’s a huge challenge. England are traditionally one of the best teams in the world at U20 level and have huge talents like Marcus Smith, Cameron Redpath and Ted Hill along with guys with a lot of Premiership experience.”
To counter that McNamara wants his side to “start fast and put them under pressure. We must try to take them to a place where they’re uncomfortable. The most important thing is not playing the game on their terms. You don’t want to get into an arm wrestle or set-piece dominated game with an English team.”
He continued: “I’m excited about looking at who we have in our team. The focus really is on us and we are looking to deliver the best possible product that we can.”
As one of just five players in the squad with previous experience at this grade, fly-half Harry Byrne is expected to take on greater responsibility in the coming weeks. A younger brother of Leinster and Ireland fly-half Ross, he won 10 consecutive caps for the U20s in 2018.
And McNamara believes he has the attributes to eventually push into Leo Cullen’s senior provincial set-up.
“He’s still obviously learning, there are areas where he himself would be quick to admit that he needs to develop. He certainly was a very good player for us last year. We’ll be hoping that he will have benefitted from those experiences and I suppose learnt to manage the games and learning the win process.
“He has undergone that and he has an opportunity now to help some other people through it and to grow. It’s a great opportunity for him, coming into his second Six Nations. He has 10 Irish U20s caps, he has an opportunity to put a few more to that. Looking forward to seeing what he can deliver and hopefully this time next year he’ll be knocking on the door for Leinster.”