Ones to watch: Five U20s players to watch out for in the future

We look at the Wolfpuppies who could go on to do big things at senior level

BY Chris Jordan 20:44 Saturday 25 June 2016, 20:44 25 Jun 2016

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne 

Ireland's marvellous campaign in the u-20 Rugby World Cup came to a crushing end in the final against England, losing out to the hosts 45-21 at the AJ Bell Stadium in Leicester this evening. 

Despite the disappointment there have been a number of positives to take from the tournament, including victories against the Baby Blacks and Grand Slam champions Wales in the pool stages, as well as a number of promising players who could make an impact on the senior stage.

Below we have picked five who we believe could feature prominently for their provinces and Ireland in the next number of seasons. 

Max Deegan

The rampaging number eight was one of the players of the tournament and has been rightfully nominated for Junior World Player of the Year alongside some of the most exciting young talents in the world, although it seems Harry Mallinder will take that accolade. 

The former St. Michael's man recently signed an academy contract with Leinster, but it is difficult to envisage him not making an appearance at the RDS next season, especially if he keeps up the scintillating form he has been in. 

Deegan won the Man of the Match award on two separate occasions for the Wolfpuppies, while he touched down three times during the tournament, including a memorable length of the field interception against Argentina, while he grabbed a consolation score in the final. 

Incidentally, the last time Ireland reached an age-grade final, the Irish number eight at the time, Jamie Heaslip, was also nominated for the Player of the Year accolade, and it would be no surprise to see Deegan go on and have a similar impact at senior level. 

Jacob Stockdale

The Ulster utility back is a highly rated prospect in his home province, having already made his debut in the Pro12 this season, and he showed his class during this year's tournament to score four tries. 

Wearing the 15 jersey for the Wolfpuppies, Stockdale bagged a brace for himself in Ireland's thrilling comeback in their opening game against Wales, before repeating the trick against Argentina with two further marvellous tries.

In the final he made a stunning break on a counter attack to set up a try for Shane Daly, exhibiting his lightning quick pace. 


Jacob Stockdale scores the first try of the game against Argentina.
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The Ulsterman missed the beginning of the Six Nations through injury, before returning to the fold in prolific form, scoring a try against Scotland on the final day of the tournament before nailing down his spot for this year's World Cup. 

Having already made his senior debut for his province, expect to see much more of Stockdale in the white of Ulster next season, despite the competition he faces in the back three. 

James Ryan

Already earmarked as a future star in Irish rugby, Ryan is a totemic leader that captained Ireland in their incredible run to the final. 

At 6'8" and 108kg, Ryan was the lynchpin of the Irish set piece which was crucial to them all tournament while his work ethic in the loose saw him chop down opponents with brute force. 

New Zealand's Mitchell Jacobson is tackled by Ireland's James Ryan. David Davies / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Comparisons have already been made with Irish great Paul O'Connell and following his stellar season at underage level, it seems only a matter of time before he joins fellow academy lock Ross Molony as the future of the Leinster second row. 

Andrew Porter

Parachuted in as a replacement for the injured Jeremy Loughman, the loosehead prop has made the position his own during the tournament. 

Reminiscent of a young Cian Healy in his pomp, Porter looked a destructive force when carrying in the loose against Argentina, while he starred against New Zealand in a dominant scrum before grabbing a try for himself against pool minnows Georgia. 

Porter scores a try
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Camerasport/Dave Howarth

Still only 19-years of age, Porter will remain around the U-20 Irish set-up for another season while at club level he will look to continue his development at Leinster, where he was recently recruited into their academy alongside Deegan and Ryan. 


Bill Johnston

Injury has curtailed the progress of the young Munster fly-half, missing out on the Six Nations thanks to a shoulder injury before he was struck down again after Ireland's epic win over New Zealand. 

Despite only making his debut against Wales, the former Rockwell man looked an assured presence in the ten jersey, kicking 11 points to steer his side towards victory. 

Given Munster's travails at out-half in recent seasons, Johnston can surely expect to join his brother, David, among the senior ranks next season should he put his injury woes behind him. 

Munster's Bill Johnston kicks a penalty
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ian Cook



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