by Brendan Cole
Ireland coach Mike Ruddock has named the Ireland Under-20s team to play England at Adams Park in the RBS 6 Nations Under-20s Championship on Friday night.
The team is chasing a Grand Slam after wins over Wales, Italy, France and Scotland. England cannot win the Grand Slam after losing to France last week, but remain in the hunt for the Championship after racking up big points totals in their wins over Wales, Italy and Scotland.
Ruddock has re-shuffled his front row but otherwise left the team unchanged. Des Merrey will earn his first start of the Championship after four substitute appearances in the matches to date.
Merrey has been the back-up hooker up until now but will start at loosehead, with Niall Scannell returning to the starting line-up after missing last week’s win over Scotland due to injury.
Kyle McCall moves across from loosehead to tighthead with James Rael, Peter Reilly and Jake Cawley providing front row cover on the bench.
The team is otherwise unchanged from last week’s 26-0 win over Scotland with Ulster out-half Paddy Jackson set to captain the side for the fifth time.
Playing away from home, Ireland go into the match as underdogs with England having won a Grand Slam last year and reached the last Under-20s Rugby World Cup final.
Speaking to RTÉ's Michael Corcoran, Ruddock said: "Even though they lost one game against France they are very much the favourites. So we can go over there looking to ambush and enjoy every second of it."
The mental side of their preparation has not been neglected. Former Armagh footballer Enda McNulty, now a mental coach, worked with the team before the tournament and again this week.
Ruddock added: "A lot of them have been in tournaments before and played in different scenarios. They are young men but they have had a good rugby education already.
"We have used expertise like Enda McNulty from Motivate, who has come in and spoken to the guys about their mental prep, not only this week but before the tournament started so there has been continuity there."
The continuity, combined with the experience of former Wales Grand Slam winning coach Ruddock, could prove vitally important on Friday night.
He added: "When it comes to big games it is really about trying to focus on your gameplan, trying to do things the way you have always done them."
Ireland U-20 v England U-20 at Adams Park, High Wycombe on Friday 16 March, 8.05pm:
15 Shane Layden 14 Conor Finn 13 Chris Farrell 2 JJ Hanrahan 11 Foster Horan 10 Paddy Jackson (capt) 9 Luke McGrath 1 Des Merrey 2 Niall Scannell 3 Kyle McCall 4-Iain Henderson 5 Daniel Qualter 6 Conor Gilsenan 7 Aaron Conneely 8 Jack Conan
Replacements: 16 James Rael 17 Peter Reilly 18 Jake Cawley 19 Tadhg Beirne 20 Jordan Coghlan 21 Kieron Marmion 22 Cathal Marsh 23 Stuart Olding