Ireland's pool of talent is frightening with Ruadhán Quinn a shining light in a crop of future stars

Ireland are on the verge of back-to-back U20s Six Nations Grand Slams
©Fergus Mainland

“Ruadhán is a serious ball carrier. He’s a big back rower who moves very quickly and his ball carrying is a massive strength of his.”

Fresh off a hat-trick and a player-of-the-match performance in an 82-7 walloping of Scotland, Richie Murphy was full of admiration for his flanker Ruadhán Quinn and the rest of Ireland’s conquering youngsters.

Quinn makes up a formidable back row that has wreaked havoc for defences through the first four rounds of the U20s Six Nations Championship, and Ireland’s head coach praised the ruthlessness of his side.

“I thought our guys were extremely clinical. It was a challenge we had set them over the last while and it was probably the first day that it clicked and we saw that in the first half with some incredible tries,” said Murphy.

The triumphs of this U20s side are perfectly mirroring the dominance of the senior team, currently ranked number one in the world.

Where better to create the next generation of world beaters than in the same environment as Jonny Sexton and the Irish green machine.

During the fallow weeks, Quinn explained: “We trained against [the senior team] twice, first in the High-Performance Centre in Dublin and then the Aviva [Stadium] last week so you learn so many things from that.

“It’s just little things that you don’t think are important but they make such a big difference in the grand scheme of things so these tips of the trade from them are great.”

Murphy added: “Over the last few years the 20s have gone in the fallow weeks to train with the senior team and we do a 25-minute block of attack and defence with them.

“It is a massive experience because the players will know what the real pressure is like at international level in those training sessions. They get to ask questions and talk to the players in their positions so that they can pick up little tips. Our guys were buzzing off it last week.”

Back in October, Quinn became the youngest player to represent Munster in the professional era when he came on against Zebre at the age of 18 and he has relished the opportunity to go head-to-head with the players whom he looks up to.

Quinn said: “There’s a full Irish back row at the moment who are probably three of the picks of the bunch at the moment in the world.

“I try and take different bits from each player but when you have a senior team as successful as we have, it’s so easy to look at them as there are so many role models.”

It comes as no surprise to see the flanker, a rising star in Irish rugby, steamrolling over defenders when he has the 2022 World Rugby Player of the Year, Josh van der Flier, to learn from and hang on his every word.

The 19-year-old learned his craft at Ballina-Killaloe RFC before going on to Crescent College but has only grown into the seven shirt this season.

On his way to winning the Munster Schools Senior Cup, he scored a trio of tries in the semi-final victory over Bandon Grammar School. This saw him earn selection for his province’s U19 side before enrolling in the Munster academy at the beginning of this season.

“The step up has been incredible that I’ve had in terms of conditioning, in terms of coaching,” reflected Quinn.

“I have Tommy O’Donnell, he played for Munster for a few years. He’s an out-and-out seven and I have only transitioned to this position a few months ago so he’s helped me so much in terms of coaching and the different things you need as a seven. He’s really helped me so much this year.

“There’s been so many small things I wouldn’t have thought that mattered but are actually so important as the levels go up so yeah, just really intense one-on-one sessions with different coaches. I think it’s been brilliant."

The Munster man is a product of Ireland’s world-leading school and academy structure. For coaches like Murphy, the U20s is a vital indicator of an individual’s performance potential and Andy Farrell will be giddy with excitement at the prospect of Quinn and his teammates coming through the ranks.

As the U20s tournament reaches its crescendo this weekend, Ireland host England at a sold-out Musgrave Park with a chance at winning back-to-back Grand Slams.

The St. Patrick’s weekend presents an opportunity for Quinn and his young countrymen to create headlines that will shape their careers for years to come.


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