‘We will be going back with something for Jack’ - Ireland to meet France in under-20 decider

Ireland looking to win this competition for a second time in next Friday’s decider

Ireland will play France in the Under-20 World Championship final at the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town next Friday (6.0, Irish time, live on Virgin Media) following a brilliant 31-12 victory over tournament hosts South Africa at the same venue on Sunday.

France, who beat England in their semi-final, won the tournament in 2018 and the last time it was played in 2019 and will therefore be chasing a hat-trick of World Cup wins. When they met Ireland earlier this season in the Six Nations, the home side won a thriller 33-31 in Musgrave Park thanks to a late penalty from Sam Prendergast.

It will be Ireland’s second World Cup final at this age-grade, having lost to England in 2016. It’s been a difficult week for the young Irish group, the deaths of St Michael’s College’s Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall in Ios, and that of scrumhalf Jack Oliver’s father Greig in a tragic accident in Cape Town, tested their emotional resilience.

Ireland head coach Richie Murphy revealed that the squad received a special message ahead of the semi-final. “It has obviously been a difficult couple of weeks. We have had plenty of stuff going on but obviously Greig’s passing was particularly difficult.

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“Jack was in the group with us until Wednesday evening when he left. It was a difficult time for the boys, but Jack sent his support this morning and so did Fiona, Greig’s wife.

“So I know that they are at home and we are really delighted to be able to bring him back something because no matter what happens now in the final, we will be going back with something for Jack.”

Ireland scored four tries, a brace for left wing James Nicholson and one each for number eight and man of the match Brian Gleeson and replacement centre Sam Berman. Prendergast kicked four conversions and a penalty.

South Africa dominated possession and territory in the first half, but it was Ireland who struck against the head, so to speak, Nicholson’s first try sending them in 7-0 ahead at the interval. The home side got back on level terms but thereafter it was Ireland who elevated their game on foot of some scintillating rugby.

Murphy said: “The big thing for us now is that we are in a World Cup final which is where we wanted to be. We have talked about preparing for these moments and I suppose in the second half we probably brought a little bit more of ourselves out on to the pitch in the way we are a capable of playing the game.

“It would be nice to go into a final and just be true to ourselves and play the game we have played it all year.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer