Head Coach Noel McNamara has named his Ireland Under-20 team, sponsored by PwC, for Friday’s Under-20 Six Nations clash against England at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 7.45pm).
McNamara’s starting XV for the Round 3 trip to Northampton shows four changes from the side that defeated Wales at Irish Independent Park in Cork last time out, with Ulster duo Ethan McIlroy and Hayden Hyde returning to the team after illness.
In the pack, John McKee comes in for his first start of the Championship at hooker while Mark Hernan’s unavailability due to injury has forced a back row reshuffle, with Dublin University flanker Alex Soroka set for his full debut at Ireland Under-20 level having come off the bench against Scotland.
Soroka starts at blindside with Sean O’Brien switching to the openside and captain David McCann continuing at the back of the scrum, while the second row pairing of Thomas Ahern and Brian Deeny remains unchanged.
McKee packs down in the front row alongside Clane RFC product Marcus Hanan, who retains his starting place after an impressive display against Wales, and the ever-present Thomas Clarkson, who has now started each of Ireland’s last eight Under-20 Six Nations games at tighthead.
Ulster’s McIlroy, who featured in the opening game win over Scotland, starts on the right wing with Oran McNulty and Andrew Smith continuing in the back three, while Hyde reforms his midfield partnership with Dan Kelly.
Out-half Jack Crowley has scored 29 points in this year’s Championship and partners Lewis Finlay in Ireland’s unchanged half-back pairing, with the fit-again Max O’Reilly, who is also involved in the Ireland Sevens programme, named among the replacements.
Tom Stewart, Harry Noonan, Charlie Ward, Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast will be hoping to make a big impact off the bench, with scrum-half Ben Murphy and Tim Corkery completing the matchday 23.
Speaking ahead of the trip to England, McNamara said: "We’re pleased to have won the opening two games, while still recognising that there is room for growth.
"The players are ambitious and they are constantly looking for improvements in their performance, both individually and collectively and that’s the target for Friday night.
"The fallow week was important as it allowed the players to take a breath and recover, as well as review the first block of games and look ahead to this weekend.
"We also had a great session with the Ireland Senior team at our home in Irish Independent Park and are now firmly focused on the challenge ahead against England."
The Round 3 clash between this year’s two unbeaten sides is live on Sky Sports Mix from 7.30pm, while there will be coverage across IrishRugby.ie and the Irish Rugby social media channels.
Meanwhile, tickets for Ireland’s third and final home game of the campaign against Italy at Irish Independent Park on Friday, March 6th are available on Ticketmaster.ie.
Ireland Under-20 Team (v England):
15. Oran McNulty (Millfield School/Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht)
14. Ethan McIlroy (Methody College/Queens University RFC/Ulster)
13. Dan Kelly (Kirkham Grammar/Loughborough University/IQ Rugby)
12. Hayden Hyde (Cranleigh School/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
11. Andrew Smith (St. Michael’s College/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
10. Jack Crowley (Bandon RFC/Cork Constitution FC/Munster)
9. Lewis Finlay (Down High School/Malone RFC/Ulster)
1. Marcus Hanan (Clane RFC/Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)
2. John McKee (Campbell College/Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster)
3. Thomas Clarkson (Blackrock College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
4. Thomas Ahern (Waterpark RFC/Shannon RFC/Munster)
5. Brian Deeny (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
6. Alex Soroka (Belvedere College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
7. Sean O’Brien (Blackrock College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
8. David McCann (RBAI/Banbridge RFC/Ulster) (captain)
16. Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy/Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
17. Harry Noonan (Greystones RFC/Old Wesley RFC/Leinster)
18. Charlie Ward (Tullow RFC/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
19. Joe McCarthy (Blackrock College/Dublin University FC/Leinster)
20. Cian Prendergast (Newbridge College/UCD RFC/Leinster)
21. Ben Murphy (Presentation College Bray/Clontarf FC/Leinster)
22. Tim Corkery (Kilkenny RFC/Lansdowne FC/Leinster)
23. Max O’Reilly (St Gerard's School/Dublin University FC/Leinster).
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.