New Ireland Under-20 captain Alex Kendellen plans to do his talking on the pitch.

Having made his senior Munster debut against Scarlets in March, the No 8 is head coach Richie Murphy's pick to lead a 34-man squad as they prepare for a Six Nations blitz in Wales.

Covid-affected, the tournament will take place over a three-and-a-half-week period with all games taking place in Cardiff Arms Park.

Ireland, Grand Slam winners in 2019 and who had three wins from three in last year’s cancelled competition, start with a match-up against Scotland on Saturday 19 June (2pm, live on RTÉ).

"It’s a huge honour," says the Cork man about being named captain.

"Not just for myself but for my family and support network, my friends, my coaches at Munster, the school, it’s a huge honour for them as well. I'm dying to get over and start playing.

"[As captain] not much changes in my own role. I’m here to lead on the pitch, my actions speak a lot more than my words, I think.

"[I’d say I’m] a work-horse, I suppose, getting around the pitch, showing up here, there and everywhere, trying to get on the ball as much as possible and be a link between the forwards and the backs."

Kendellen (l) on his Munster debut

A product of Presentation Brothers College, Kendellen has captained Ireland at U18 Schools level.

The UCC man says there was no shortage of helping hands on his journey, citing, in particular, one Munster stalwart.

"I chatted to Billy Holland during the week," he says of the Reds legend who is hanging up his boots after 14 years of service at the end of this season.

"We all know he’s packing it in soon enough. He’s been very good to me and not just the last six weeks but back in Munster for the last year as well.

"He’s had an arm around me and brought me along.

"They’ve [all] been very good, I’ve got tips off a few of them, telling me to be myself, lead by my actions. They’ve seen me growing up in Munster and what I can do on the pitch."

The U20s played Leinster A last month

Age-grade and club rugby has been seriously affected by pandemic restrictions and while players have been getting some action between 'A' games, sevens, challenges and senior appearances, Murphy admits that assembling a squad has been an onerous task.

"It has been a difficult process really," said Murphy, whose son Ben is one of six players featuring in their second year as part of the panel.

"It probably goes back to Christmas when the guys committed first.

"You have got guys coming in with massive difference in relation to what kind of training they have done so the levels of fitness the lads have come in with is very different.

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"Some guys were in academies, some were working remotely so that was difficult but the group came together quite well and quite quickly. The lads applied themselves really well and what we had to do was make sure that our training was not going to put guys in jeopardy.

"We let them build up into it and took the relevant precautions along the way.

"Definitely quite a few of them might have played in early September when rugby was back on but from that point until Christmas time they had not played at all.

"And within the camps we have had, what we tried to do was put a game element into that, whether it be 40 minutes or 80 minutes of rugby.

"We have tried to build them up slowly with their game minutes but also the intensity of their training minutes.

"We feel we are ready to compete at the level they are going into."


Fixtures, all games at Cardiff Arms Park

Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 19 June, 2pm

Wales v Ireland, Friday 25 June, 8pm

Ireland v England, Thursday 1 July, 8pm

Italy v Ireland, Wednesday 7 July, 2pm

Ireland v France, Tuesday 13 July, 4.45pm.