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Six men’s U20 players to watch in 2021

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Following a hiatus of more than a year, rugby fans around the world will have a chance to run the rule over some of the men’s game’s brightest emerging talents this month.

The U20 Six Nations 2021, which was delayed as a result of COVID-19, will take place in Cardiff between 19 June and 13 July, as England go in search of a ninth title.

Next Friday, meanwhile, South Africa will welcome Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay to Stellenbosch for the U20 International Series.

Ahead of the action we picked out six players who could be set for a couple of months to remember.

Oscar Beard (England)

Beard made his English Premiership debut for Harlequins at Sale last Friday, lining up on the left wing and earning plaudits for his willingness to put his body on the line in defence.

It is in the centre that Beard has caught the eye at age-group level, though, and he appears to be the man in possession of England’s number 13 jersey as the U20 Six Nations approaches.

Still only 19, the outside-centre is a product of the Harlequins academy having played in the junior ranks of both Alton Rugby Club and Farnham RUFC, as World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Jonny Wilkinson did.

Beard will be joined in the England U20 squad by Harlequins team-mate Fin Baxter, and the young prop is another player to keep an eye on.

Joshua Brennan (France)

One of several players included in the France U20 squad with a famous surname, Brennan is the son of former Ireland international Trevor.

Brennan, who like his older brother Daniel came through the Toulouse academy, made his Six Nations U20 debut during last season’s curtailed tournament, and captained France against Wales.

The Dublin-born second-row played twice for the Toulouse first-team this season and scored a try in the final as the academy side beat Perpignan to the junior championship title.

Brennan’s Toulouse pack-mate Théo Ntamack, brother of Romain and son of Émile, is also in the France squad and will hope to carry his good recent form into the tournament in Wales.

Jordan Hendrikse (South Africa)

Fly-half Hendrikse will not turn 19 until 28 June, but his undoubted quality has already earned him first-team opportunities at Gauteng franchise, the Lions.

Hendrikse turned in a Player of the Match performance when he wore the number 10 jersey in the Lions’ 39-37 defeat to the Stormers last month, kicking 12 points in the process.

“He has got a special talent. More than him kicking the ball prodigiously, it’s the confidence that he brings in the way he organises everyone around him,” Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said after the Rainbow Cup contest.

If selected for the matches against Argentina, Georgia and Uruguay, Hendrikse will follow in the footsteps of older brother Jaden, who represented the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2019.

Ben Muncaster (Scotland)

Born in North Berwick, Muncaster travelled south of the border when he won a cricket and rugby scholarship to Rugby School in England.

Although he had a trial with Middlesex, it was with an oval ball that he excelled and his performances for Rugby, where William Webb Ellis is said to have invented the game almost 200 years ago, caught the attention of Leicester Tigers.

Muncaster spent his formative years in the Tigers academy before being lured back up to Scotland with Edinburgh last summer, and he subsequently made his senior debut during the Rainbow Cup win over Zebre in April.

Back-row forward, Muncaster has represented Scotland at both U18 and U19 level and has been included in his country’s squad for this year’s U20 Six Nations.

Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)

It remains to be seen whether Niniashvili will travel to Stellenbosch with Georgia U20 such has been his impact with the full Lelos squad.

Niniashvili has admitted that he felt “dazzled and excited” when he was first called up to the seniors last May, aged just 17.

But, he has gone on to excel on the test stage, winning his first caps as a replacement in the Autumn Nations Cup matches against Ireland and Fiji.

Full-back Niniashvili has since started matches against Russia (twice) and Spain, and scored his first international try in a 23-6 defeat of the Russians in Kaliningrad in March. 

It has also been confirmed that he will move to Top 14 club Lyon next season with countryman Beka Saghinadze.

Joaquín Oviedo (Argentina)

Number eight Oviedo was the surprise inclusion in Mario Ledesma’s training squad for Argentina’s 2020 test matches, receiving the call-up on his 19th birthday.

Oviedo did not make it onto the pitch in any of Los Pumas’ official matches, but will have learned an incredible amount training alongside Rodrigo Bruni and Facundo Isa.

He will now hope to put those lessons into practice when Argentina U20 face South Africa, Georgia and Uruguay in Stellenbosch.

Oviedo’s older brother Leonel is a hooker who featured at the World Rugby U20 Championship in both 2017 and 2018, and went on to play for the Argentina XV at the World Rugby Nations Cup 2019.

READ MORE: South Africa “no longer just a follower” when it comes to gender diversity in rugby >>

Source – World Rugby

6 Nations

Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby

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Image Credit: London Irish

London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.

The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.

O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011. 

He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017. 

O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation. 

On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions. 

“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years. 

“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy. 

“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.

“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland. 

“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old. 

“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport. 

“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them. 

“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us. 

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.

“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career. 

“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey. 

“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family. 

“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years. 

“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then. 

“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be. 

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”

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6 Nations

Ryan And Baird Ruled Out Of Scotland Game. 2 called up.

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ireland squad returned to Dublin on Saturday evening following the victory over England at Twickenham and reassembled at Carton House on Sunday evening.

James Ryan will not be considered for selection this week and his return to rugby protocols will be supervised by the Leinster Medical Team. Ryan Baird is ruled out of the final fixture of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a back issue.

Uncapped locks Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad. Ross has been involved in Ireland squads since the summer of 2021 while Joe, a former Ireland U20 player, made his Leinster debut against Cardiff in January having impressed for Dublin University in the Energia AIL.

Robert Baloucoune, Nick Timoney and Mike Lowry all return after lining out for Ulster in the URC against Leinster at the weekend.

Ireland play Scotland in the final round of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday 19th March at 4.45pm. The game is being televised by Virgin (ROI) and ITV (NI).

Ireland Squad Round 5 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships

Backs (16)
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 11 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 30 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN

Forwards (19)
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps

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6 Nations

Johnny Sexton Signs Contract Extension to 2023 Rugby World Cup

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Photo Credit - Irish Rugby

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a contract extension up until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

In November Johnny earned his 100th cap for Ireland against Japan and played a pivotal role in Ireland’s third defeat of New Zealand. He hit the milestone of 500 Six Nations Championship points against Wales in Round 1 of this year’s tournament and has represented Ireland on 103 occasions to date.

The former World Player of the Year was appointed Ireland captain by Andy Farrell in January 2020 and has led the team to ten victories in his 13 game tenure as the on field general.

Johnny made his international debut against Fiji in November 2009 and has represented Ireland at three Rugby World Cups (2011, 2015 & 2019). Johnny is a two time Lions tourist (2013 & 2017) and has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and five European Cups with Leinster. He has represented his provinces on 178 occasions, scoring 1549 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented: “Johnny’s performances continue to be of the highest standard and he remains an integral member of the Ireland and Leinster squads.  He has always been a leader on the field and in the past two years since taking on the Ireland captaincy his leadership off it has been top class. Johnny is a generational player and we are delighted that he has extended to 2023.”

 Johnny Sexton, commented: “I always said that if I am enjoying my rugby and the Ireland and Leinster set-ups believe I can add value to the environment then it would be an easy decision to sign another contract.  There is some great talent coming through at Leinster at present and I am excited about the prospect of competing at a fourth World Cup with Ireland and the potential for growth in this group between now and then.”

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