Congratulations to Des Merrey, Mikey Sherlock and Tadgh Furlong of our U 21 team who have been chosen in the Irish squad to travel to South Africa for the U21 World Championships. We wish them every success and hope that they enjoy the experience.
They will be playing with and against the best young players in the world—names that will be familiar to rugby followers in the next few years and who will in the future win World Cup medals so it is a great opportunity for our lads to make a name for themselves.
In 2004 the Irish team defeated Australia in the semi-final and were defeated by New Zealand in the final while Australia defeated South Africa in the playoff for 3rd place. It is worth looking at some of the names on those teams. There was one Clontarf player on the Irish team—Johnny Wickham who was the loose head prop but there were four others who later joined Tarf. These were Richie Lane, Jamie Heaslip, Dave O Brien and Breffne O’Donnell. Others on that team included Gareth Steenson who has starred recently for Exeter Chiefs in the English Premiership, Tomas O’Leary,Denis Fogarty, Declan Fitzpatrick and David Gannon who have played for Munster, Ulster and Connacht respectively this season.
The Australian team included Drew Mitchell, Digby Ioane, Adam Ashley Cooper, Luke Burgess, Steven Moore, and Rocky Elsom all of whom were capped regularly for Australia and of course Rocky Elsom won a Heineken Cup medal with Leinster in 2009.
South Africa included Bryan Habana, Wynand Olivier, Paul Delport, Derek Hougaard, Andries Bekker and Ruan Pienaar who all played regularly subsequently for South Africa and some of whom won World Cup medals in 2007. The team also included Justin Melck who played some games for Munster a few seasons ago.
The New Zealand team of 2004 included Glen Horton, Ben Atiga, Luke McAllister, Steven Donald, Ben Franks, John Afoa, James Ryan, Jerome Kaino, Piri Weepu, Jimmy Gopperth and Hosea Gear who were subsequently capped for the All Blacks and also George Naoupu who now plays with Connacht. John Afoa, Ruan Pienaar and Declan Fitzpatrick are all expected to feature for Ulster in this years Heineken Cup final while Jamie Heaslip will feature for Leinster.
So for Des, Mikey and Tadhg, their trip to South Africa will hopefully be another step on their way to a successful professional career and perhaps a World Cup medal in 2015 or 2019.