McCormick backs Ireland mentality against formidable Italian pack
Bullish but not complacent, James McCormick knows Ireland’s Under-20s will face a tough test from Italy when they resume their Six Nations title bid at Musgrave Park in Cork tonight (8pm).
The hooker has been central to Ireland’s back-to-back wins so far, scoring a try in each, first in a 53-5 thrashing of Wales in Cork and then in their famous 17- 16 against France at Aix-en-Provence last time out, which was sealed at death by the conversion of fly-half Charlie Tector from a Ben Brownlee try.
In Italy, Ireland face a top side after a 6-0 win over England in the second round who possess all the physical attributes possessed by the French, but while Ballymena’s first rower, a member of the academy of ‘Ulster recognizes the threat coming their way, he has every confidence in his team-mates to deliver another telling performance against a bigger pack.
“It was a really good performance,” McCormick said of Italy’s loss to the defending champions, “they played really well.
“A dominant big pack and a good backline to go with that. We’ll definitely sit down and take a look and see what we can get out of it.
“We support each other, we support our exercises. Ultimately it comes down to who wants it the most and if we can find the right mental space, I always think whatever we come up against we can overcome it.
Head coach Richie Murphy has made four changes to his starting XV since the win over France, with Chay Mullins, Jude Postlethwaite, Fionn Gibbons and Matthew Devine all entering the starting backline. Mullins reclaims the right wing spot after scoring two tries against Wales, with Patrick Campbell continuing at full back and Gibbons moving onto the left wing.
Irish Sevens player Postlethwaite will form the central partnership with Brownlee while scrum-half Devine will be reunited at half-backs with Tector.
Reuben Crothers is once again captain of the back row and McCormick has been impressed not only with his Ulster academy team-mate’s leadership but also the resilience the team has shown so far.
“I knew Reuben all through school and lived with him last year, he was my roommate. I know what he brings to the table and he has excelled in the last two games, and he will only get better in the future.
“We came up against two different teams and got two different results. It gives us a lot of confidence that we can get ahead and stay ahead and then we can go and we’ve gone behind but come back to win again.
“It’s a good experience for all the players to know what we have to do in these situations if we meet them again this week.
“It’s going well for us, so if we can keep going and keep improving, that’s all we can do.”
P Campbell (Munster); C Mullins (Bristol Bears), J Postlethwaite (Ulster), B Brownlee (Leinster), F Gibbons (Leinster); C Tector (Leinster), M Devine (Connacht); J Boyle (Leinster), J McCormick (Ulster), R McGuire (Leinster); C O’Tighearnaigh (Leinster), M Morrissey (Leinster); J McNabney (Ulster), R Crothers (Ulster) – captain, J Culhane (Leinster).
J Hanlon (Ulster), O Michel (Leinster), D McSweeney (Munster), A McNamee (Ulster), L McLoughlin (Ulster), E Coughlan (Munster), T Butler (Munster), D O’Grady (Leinster).
L Pani (Benetton); F Cuminetti (Lyon), F Mey (HBS Colorno), D Passarella (Tarvisium), F Lazzarin (Petrarca); N Teneggi (Emilia), A Garbisi (Mogliano); L Rizzoli (Capitolina), L Frangini (National Academy), R Genovese (Turin); A Ortombina (Emilia) R Andreoli (Rovigo); D Odiase (HBS Colorno), R Vincent (National Academy), G Ferrari (Capitolina) – captain.
T Scramoncin (Petrarca), V Bizzotto (Bassano), R Bartolini (Florentia), L Berlese (Tarvisium), G Cenedese (Villorba), G Tomaselli (Fiamme Oro), G Sante (Mogliano), A Fusari (Fiamme Oro).
Aled Evans (Wales)