Connacht Rugby celebrated a rare success with the u-20s claiming this year’s interprovincial crown following a clean sweep of victories over their fellow provinces.
It is a decade since Connacht have won an interprovincial crown and several of that winning team, including current Connacht captain Gavin Duffy, went on to have a successul professional careers both with the province and with Ireland.
Now u-20’s coach Nigel Carolan is hoping his current crop are recognised for their ability and talent when the Irish u-20 squad is selected in preparation for the Six Nations Championship.
“I think we have proven over the series of three games that we have players good enough to step up and I think, tcchnically and physically, they have shown they are the best that are around,” Carolan says.
The current team has come through the Connacht system since u-15 level and it is hoped many will continue through to the professional ranks.
“Out of this crop of 20s seven or eight are contracted to the academy and they will be integrated into the profesional team. A number of others will also get exposure at Irish u-20 level.
“I think it shows we can win, not only one-off games, but consecutively. But it is also the manner in which we are winning. We scored good tries, some off first phase, and we have guys who can deliver skill. It sends a message to the professional team that there are good players coming through and what better to have local indigenous players put presure on the professional team.”
Having been forced to dig deep to claim narrow wins over both Ulster and Leinster, Connacht were comfortable 32 -19 winners over Munster to complete the Grand Slam.
“We won two games by a late score. There are fine lines and we were lucky, but there was an air of composure and confidence about this team. They always believed they could do it.”
Last weekend fullback Shane Layden claimed a hat-trick of tries, and the Buccaneers man, along with outhalf Jack Carty, Daniel Qualter, Robbie Henshaw (still at school ) and Galwegian Tadgh Leader are earmarked for big careers.
CONNACHT: S Layden; C Finn, R Henshaw, T Leader, C Boland; J Carty, K Marmion; P Griffin, C O’Connell, J Dever; A Kindregan, D Qualter; A Conneely, W O’Brien and B Moylett (captain ) Replacements:- A Keating (for J Dever 54 mins ), E Tarmey (for Kindregan 54 mins ), M Dever (for Finn, 61 mins ), I O’Grady (for O’Brien 61 mins ), D O’Dwyer (for O’Connell 74 mins ), J Vaughn (for Boland 74 mins ) and M Walsh (for Marmion 74 mins ) Temporary replacement:- J Dever (for Conneely 76 mins )