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Ireland U20s Head Coach Richie Murphy and Captain Alex Kendellen spoke ahead of the sides’ 2021 U20 Six Nations Championship opener against Scotland.
The pair talked about a range of topics from selection to the game plan to what they know about Scotland.
Head Coach Richie Murphy spoke first about the squad selection for Saturday’s game against Scotland.
Some issues the head coach encountered during the selection was the lack of game time the squad had and the injuries the side suffered.
“Obviously, we picked up a few injuries along the way which is disappointing for those boys and the group but with where we are at and knowing that we are playing against Scotland, knowing the strength they have, we feel that we picked the right team for this week,” said Murphy.
Joe Schmidt sent his former colleague a text wishing him the best of luck on Saturday.
On a question about possible similarities in coaching, Murphy stated that every coach must have something unique to them.
“I think with every coach you work with; you still have to have your own beliefs. You can’t copy anyone.”
Kendellen feels that the best 15 were chosen to start at the weekend but added that all players in the squad are expected to be used during the Six Nations.
Both came across as confident ahead of Saturday’s game.
However, Murphy revealed that he was nervous ahead of his first competitive game in charge of the Ireland U20s side.
The coach is very happy with the pool of players he has at his disposal but noted their lack of fixtures before the tournament as a reason for his nerves.
The side only played twice – against Leinster and Munster’s development squads.
“I feel that we’ve prepared well in the time that we have had.”
The side will be on live TV on Saturday as RTÉ One will broadcast the game.
The spotlight on the U20s is a welcome one, according to Murphy, especially at a time when their championship is isolated from the senior Six Nations.
“I think it is going to be a massive spotlight…[The six-day turnarounds] will give people the opportunity to sit in and watch the games.”
That six-day turnaround exists to give players time to recover from their previous game.
Murphy added that the lack of recent competitive experience and player safety were factors of the decision.
Kendellen spoke of the team’s complete focus on their own game plan as they were unable to study this Scotland side.
The captain added that the side will adapt to what they learn about Scotland’s game plan in-game, but the focus will be on implementing their own.
The side will want to dominate proceedings in that way.
He looks forward to playing U20 rugby for the national team.
“It’s still a huge opportunity…to even get to play rugby is huge,” said Kendellen.
Fly-half James Humphries will wear the number 10 shirt for the U20s on Saturday.
There is interest in his selection as he is the son of David Humphreys and nephew of Ian Humphreys.
However, his head coach believes he can carve his own path on Saturday and expects him to play his own game.
“It’s a difficult one for him because, obviously, he’s got an uncle and father who have gone before him (Ian and David), but I think James is very much his own man.
He’s come into the group and has applied himself really well, he’s been diligent, and he is not too dissimilar to his father – his looks, how he carries himself, how he kicks the ball…but he is very much his own man.”
Experience could be a big factor in this upcoming U20 Six Nations Championship due to the lack of game time.
Murphy believes that it is a visible factor in training but that all players in the squad show a similar hunger.
Kendellen does not feel the need to step up for the side as he is more experienced than others because of the talent within the squad.
A lot of the experience the players have had is with their clubs and their schools, showcasing the growth of rugby at that level in Ireland.
“There’s always things that we can do better in Irish Rugby…it is good to see those guys getting picked up [Craig Casey and Daniel Okeke] that are outside the traditional schools. There’s a good representation [from various schools in the squad],” said Murphy.
Kendellen spoke of his time at Presentation Brothers College in Cork all the way to Munster.
The Ireland U20 captain sees the experience he earned so far in his career as valuable.
He said: “You can’t not look at those experiences and back yourself in these moments.”