By Micil Glennon
Ireland Under-20s hooker Max Abbott is hoping to use their remaining Six Nations fixtures to build towards the Junior World Cup in June.
With just one win out of three games, the opener against Scotland, Mike Ruddock’s side sit four points off table-toppers France.
But Cork Constitution’s Abbott wants to use the ties against Italy on Friday evening (7.05pm), and France next week to build momentum ahead of the summer trip to New Zealand where they will face Wales, Fiji and France in Pool B.
"There is still a lot to play for in the final two games against Italy and France,” Abbott said.
"We are building towards the World Cup in New Zealand in the summer, so it is very enjoyable and exciting.
Last time out Ireland fell to a 33-9 loss to England at Franklin’s Gardens, but Abbott felt that the scoreline flattered the hosts.
“The scoreline didn't reflect the performances at all but they took their chances and we didn't,” he said.
Coach Ruddock has made one change to the side that were beaten by England, with captain Dan Leavy missing out through injury. He is replaced by Buccaneers’ Rory Moloney.
“We must take our chances when they come along and although we did well to draw with Italy last year we would be confident that at Dubarry Park we can get the desired result,” Ruddock said.
Ireland Under-20: 15 David Busby; 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Adam Byrne; 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy; 1 Peter Dooley, 2 Max Abbott, 3 Rory Burke; 4 Sean O’Brien, 5 Ross Malony; 6 Peadar Timmins, 7 Rory Moloney, 8 Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: 16 Sean McNulty, 17 Denis Coulsen, 18 Oisin Heffernan, 19 Stephen Gardiner, 20 Frankie Taggart, 21 Jack Cullen, 22 Conor McKeon, 23 Harrison Brewer.
Live television coverage of the U20 Six Nations meeting of Ireland v Italy from 19:00 on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Worldwide).