RTÉ rugby analyst Tony Ward has hailed Ireland U20s' resilience after they put a disappointing Six Nations behind them to reach the semi-finals of the Rugby Junior World Cup.
Ireland won only twice out of five games in the Six Nations but have now topped a group containing France, Wales and Fiji to set up a semi-final clash with holders England (6.05am Sunday).
“It’s a fantastic achievement," said Ward. "In the three (U20 Six Nations) games down in Athlone, the weather was appalling, and they never really got the chance to do themselves justice.
“But full credit to Mike Ruddock and everybody involved, Jack O’Donoghue an outstanding captain, it’s an unbelievable achievement to get this far.
“It’s going to be very difficult against England, obviously, but hopefully they give a good account of themselves.
“Because we didn’t play well in the three home games, where the weather was a huge factor, there was a bit of a consensus that it was a poor year in terms of talent for Ireland.
“It’s not. This is actually a good group. And that’s why I was particularly disappointed, I felt that they didn’t do themselves justice.
“But I think they’re in with a real chance against England.
"England will be red-hot favourites but with Ireland and England you just never know. I expect Ireland to give them a good rattle.”