Ireland will be looking to make it two wins from two at the World Rugby U20 Championships in Santa Fe when they take on Australia on Saturday (KO 2.30 pm).
Noel McNamara’s side got their campaign off to a superb start when they recorded a bonus-point 42-26 victory over England on Tuesday.
With Ireland securing a Grand Slam Six Nations triumph earlier this year, there is a lot of expectation and excitement surrounding this young group of Irish players.
There is no shortage of talent throughout the squad but here, we take a look at some of the players who you should keep a close eye on when Ireland and Australia battle it out on Saturday.
Charlie Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
The 6’7″ powerhouse is the captain of this group of players and it’s easy to see why as he played a massive role in Ireland’s opening try against England on Tuesday.
With just 10 minutes on the clock, Ireland were as many points down but Ryan took the game by the scruff of the neck as he blocked down an attempted clearing kick from England scrum-half Ollie Fox. Ryan managed to collect the ball but was tackled into touch just before he could ground the ball.
However, that didn’t stop the Leinster Academy second-row as he stole the resulting lineout which ultimately led to Jake Flannery’s try which got Ireland back into the game.
Comparisons have been made with Leinster and Ireland’s James Ryan and when you see the amount of work he gets through in a game, it’s not hard to see why.
Jake Flannery (Shannon/Munster)
The aforementioned Flannery started at outhalf on Tuesday against England having previously been installed at fullback for Ireland’s Grand Slam Six Nations-winning campaign.
The Tipperary native moved to 15 in the second half when Munster Academy out-half Ben Healy was introduced from the bench.
One of Flannery’s best attributes, which there are many, is his running game and the Shannon RFC club man’s ability in this regard is much more obvious from fullback.
He showed excellent awareness to spot a gap in the English defence to crash over for Ireland’s opening try while his kicking from the tee is also top-notch as he nailed some difficult touchline conversions for his side.
He has been named at 10 for Saturday’s clash with Australia and you can expect him to have a big influence at the game be it at 10 or 15.
Dylan Tierney-Martin (Corinthians/Connacht)
Dylan Tierney-Martin is a crucial member of Noel McNamara’s side as he contributes heavily to Ireland’s success at the scrum and lineout.
One of the members of Ireland’s leadership group, Tierney-Martin is one of the new generation of Irish front-row forwards whose ability in the loose stands out along with their capabilities in the set-piece.
And it’s no surprise.
Tierney-Martin only recently converted to hooker as he has played most of his rugby as a flanker.
Tierney-Martin is an excellent ball-carrier and often shows superb footwork to get around defenders or at least generate that extra metre to help get his side on the front foot.
A two-try man-of-the-match performance against England in the opening round of the Six Nations was a particular highlight of his so far in 2019 and the Australians will be keen to curb his influence on Saturday’s proceedings.
Angus Kernohan (Queen’s University/Ulster)
Irish rugby fans will be well aware of Angus Kernohan after the young winger made 16 appearances for Ulster this season.
Jacob Stockdale recently described Kernohan as one of the hardest working players he knows and this was evident on Tuesday night on one particular occasion as he and Jonathan Wren produced a strong chase to pin England on their own try line which ultimately led to some quick-thinking from fellow Ulster player Stewart Moore who dotted down after England brought the ball back over their own line.
Kernohan possesses superb speed and footwork in addition to a huge appetite for work making him an ideal winger and it’s no surprise that Ulster head coach Dan McFarland backed him so much this season.
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Ireland vice-captain Craig Casey is quickly becoming one of the most well-recognised faces among this emerging crop of players.
Standing at just 5’5″, Casey doesn’t let his size get in the way of producing excellent performances.
The Limerick man produced some outstanding moments throughout the Six Nations and his tackle on 115KG French powerhouse Jordan Joseph in Cork certainly shows that Casey is well able to mix it with the biggest in the business.
However, it’s the nuts and bolts of his game which are the most impressive. Casey possesses one of the quickest and sharpest passes in the country at the moment and his ability to fire out quick, flat ball to his backline is a huge benefit to the talent which he has outside him.
Such was his skill on display throughout the Six Nations, Casey was the subject of some interest from Leinster but the 20-year-old committed his future to Munster by signing a development contract before moving onto a senior contract the season after next.
A big future awaits.