Hot on the heels of the Grand Slam exploits of Caelan Doris and U20s Fiachna Barrett and Harry West, Ballina Rugby Club had yet further international representation last week when Sean Hopkins featured for Ireland in their U19 International against the touring Japan U19s, in Lakelands Park – the home ground of Terenure College.
Having trailed 7-12 at half-time in Wednesday’s clash, Ireland fought back to lead 14-12 on the all-weather pitch, with Hopkins, still a student at St Muredach’s College in Ballina, the second of the Irish replacements introduced. However, scrum-half Joji Takaki squeezed in a vital penalty, on the back of a Yoshitaka Yazaki try, which saw the powerful and pacy Japan side claim a famous Dublin win, 19-22.
Mark Butler’s charges had the opportunity to bounce back in the second game of the series when the teams went to battle again at the same venue last Sunday evening. However, management made wholesale changes to their squad in order to expose as many players as possible to rigours of underage international rugby, and with Sean Hopkins’ absence from the match-day squad came absolutely no representation from Connacht in the entire 25-man squad.
Meanwhile, Lacken native Caelan Doris is among the six nominations for the Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship. His Leinster clubmate Hugo Keenan and Connacht’s Mack Hansen are also nominated.
There are also three French players up for the award – Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos and Damian Penaud.
The shortlist was based on nominations from the international rugby media but the winner is decided by the online voting of fans.