Ireland Under-20’s boss Richie Murphy selected his 34-man squad on Thursday for the upcoming U20 Six Nations Championship in Wales.
Murphy believes that the squad chosen is a strong one and that there were a few more players who were unlucky to miss out.
The 34-strong squad is as large as it is to combat any Covid cases or injuries that may arise in the camp but the U20s coach “hope[s] that with the 34 players that [are] going, [they] will have enough to cover those games.”
Among the 34 is captain Alex Kendellen who the new boss chose to lead his side out for Murphy’s maiden U20 Six Nations.
The former Ireland senior team skills coach put his selection of Kendellen down to the back-rower’s attitude.
Murphy described his captain as a quiet individual who lets his work on the pitch do the talking.
He hailed Kendellen as a “standout leader” within the group who helps to spread the coaches’ messages through the team.
“When he is in the group, guys tend to look and listen to him. When he speaks, he’s not a screamer or a shouter, he is very calculated in how he thinks.”
Also present in the squad is Richie’s son and Leinster scrum-half Ben Murphy.
The former Leinster backroom member said it was weird for the first few days but applauded his son’s professionalism.
He noted that the scrum-half was part of last year’s Ireland U20 Six Nations squad which made the scenario easier for his father.
“He stays away from me, he doesn’t talk to me too much when we are in camp.
“If we have stuff that we need him to do, we go and do that. In fairness to him, he has been really professional about the whole thing. He just gets on with it.”
Dan Kelly was a notable exclusion as Eddie Jones had picked him for England’s summer tests.
Ireland U-20 international Dan Kelly has been named in England’s squad.
Disappointing to lose a player of Kelly’s calibre from the Irish system. pic.twitter.com/37m32Rjs40
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) June 10, 2021
The Leicester fly-half has represented the U20s three times before but will kit out for England at senior level.
Murphy reflected on Kelly’s decision to choose England over Ireland and described it as a loss but ultimately understandable.
“Obviously, Dan is a loss. He was in our system last year. He obviously went back to Leicester and is in college over there. His life is around that area.
“Within the conversations that the IRFU have had with him, Dan has been very good. He really enjoyed his time with us, but he feels that he needs to go in a different direction at the moment.
“We respect his decision, and we move on from it.”
Six Connacht players were named in the squad, an increase from the four chosen in 2020.
However, Murphy did not see this as an important aspect when it came to his selection.
In fact, he did not realise it.
“Yeah, it’s funny, I didn’t know there were six Connacht players in the squad. We just pick the players that we see in front of us.
“They all come in from their different provinces and they’re treated very much as Irish players and within the national set-up, what we’ve tried to do is kind of create that club feel so the guys mix in really well like that.”
The U20s boss thinks that any team will want to bring in a club-like setting, regardless of the level the team plays at.
He added that his own experience, as well as the experience of forwards coach Denis Leamy and defence coach Colm Tucker, helps the U20 setup to have that kind of setting.
The senior players in the squad and Alex Kendellen’s role in the squad add to this, according to Murphy.
“So the combination of those three guys and then some of those senior players coming back and Alex coming in, it’s very much a combined effort in order to make people feel comfortable within the environment but an environment that’s very challenging so that we can drive these players forward to really get the best out of them individually.
“If we can concentrate on that hopefully the performances or the results side of it will take care of itself.”
The full Ireland U20 squad for the U20 Six Nations is available here.