Ireland begin the defence of their Grand Slam crown against Wales in the opening round of the 2023 Under-20 Six Nations.
Richie Murphy’s side started their 2022 campaign in style with an emphatic 53-5 victory over the same opponents and another positive result would set them up nicely for another title charge this time round.
But since that memorable clean sweep they have endured harder times, and with a squad decimated by injuries, finished seventh in the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series after a play off victory over Scotland.
Wales, by contrast, looked a team transformed in Italy, topping their Pool before a 47-27 final defeat to South Africa.
DATE AND TIME
Their latest encounter is a 7pm kick off on Friday 3 February.
Stadiwm Csm in Colwyn Bay has played host to Wales U20s for over a decade and will do so again this year.
HOW TO WATCH
The Under-20s Six Nations will be shown live on BBC iPlayer for fans in the UK, as well as S4C in Wales, while in Ireland, the games are split between Virgin Media and RTE.
WALES TEAM NEWS
Dragons back row Ryan Woodman will captain a side with seven debutants in the pack.
The backline has three players returning from the U20 Summer Series squad – full back Cameron Winnett, winger Harri Houston and fly half Dan Edwards.
Woodman is joined in the back row by Luca Giannini and Huw Davies, while Liam Edwards and Jonny Green make up the engine room.
Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths and Tomas Pritchard start either side of Sam Scarfe in the front row.
Edwards’ half-back partner is Archie Hughes, while Harri Ackerman and Louie Hennessey start in the centres.
Llien Morgan completes the XV, joining Winnett and Houston in the back three.
“By and large it is full strength squad,” said head coach Byron Hayward. “We’ve got three players who are injured in Morgan Morse, Bryn Bradley and Oli Andrew but we are in a good place and we’re looking forward to the game on Friday.
“Oli was probably one of our best players last season, but he’s out and Llien Morgan has come in and played exceptionally well against Poland and deserves his opportunity to start. I think we have a strong backline which is experienced at this level and provided we can get enough possession we can cause Ireland some problems.
“They will be a massive challenge as they are Grand Slam champions. Irish rugby is flourishing at the moment and has been for a number of years. But it is a challenge we are looking forward too. The reason you are in sport is because you want to play against the best and we face the best team first up.”
Wales U20 team to face Ireland U20: 15. Cameron Winnett, 14. Llien Morgan, 13. Louie Hennessey, 12. Harri Ackerman, 11. Harri Houston, 10. Dan Edwards, 9. Archie Hughes; 1. Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths, 2. Sam Scarfe, 3. Tomas Pritchard, 4. Liam Edwards, 5. Jonny Green, 6. Ryan Woodman (c), 7. Luca Giannini,
8. Huw Davies
Replacements: 16. Isaac Young, 17. Freddie Chapman, 18. Ellis Fackrell, 19. Owain Evans, 20. Mackenzie Martin, 21. Harri Williams, 22. Harrison James, 23. Tom Florence
IRELAND TEAM NEWS
Hooker Gus Murphy leads a side containing three players who featured during last year’s Grand Slam-winning campaign selected to start.
Leinster duo Diarmuid Mangan and Conor O’Tighearnaigh start in the second row, while Ulster back row James McNabney is named at blindside flanker.
Additionally, three players – Sam Prendergast, George Hadden, and Harry West – played for Ireland during the U20s Summer Series last year, ensuring Murphy’s squad contains valuable experience heading into Friday’s opener.
Prendergast, the younger brother of Ireland international Cian, starts at out-half in a half-back pairing with Fintan Gunne. Hugh Cooney and John Devine are named in the midfield, with James Nicholson, Ike Anagu and Hugh Gavin selected in the back three.
Up front, Hadden is joined in the front row by skipper McCarthy and Paddy McCarthy, the younger brother of Ireland second row Joe.
Mangan and O’Tighearnaigh are the lock pairing, with McNabney and Munster duo Ruadhán Quinn and Brian Gleeson in the back row.
“We are excited to get the Six Nations underway in Wales on Friday night, following a good period of preparation for the group,” said boss Murphy.
“The squad have come together well over the last couple of weeks, gelling both on and off the pitch, and we have now turned the focus this week to performance.”
Ireland U20 team to face Wales U20: 15. James Nicholson, 14. Ike Anagu, 13. Hugh Cooney, 12. John Devine, 11. Hugh Gavin, 10. Sam Prendergast, 9. Fintan Gunne, 1. George Hadden, 2. Gus McCarthy (c), 3. Paddy McCarthy, 4. Diarmuid Mangan, 5. Conor O’Tighearnaigh, 6. James McNabney, 7. Ruadhán Quinn, 8. Brian Gleeson
Replacements: 16. Danny Sheahan, 17. George Morris, 18. Fiachna Barrett, 19. Evan O’Connell, 20. Jacob Sheahan, 21. Oscar Cawley, 22. Harry West, 23. Henry McErlean